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on 12 December 2012
Cassel is cursed. He comes from a family of magic workers and lives in a world where magic was banned decades ago, but Cassel can't work magic. His family hate him for being the only non-worker...and because they helped cover up a murder he committed as a child. But when Cassel finds himself being haunted by a white cat, and his dreams are leading him to sleepwalk to increasingly bizarre places, he is forced to turn to his family to discover the secrets hidden in his past.

This is the first book in the Curse Workers series and the first book by Holly Black I've read and it blew me away. Finding young adult urban fantasy can be near impossible, but this is an incredible example of just how good it can be. Holly Black has reshaped our world by pushing curse workers out of the closet in 1929 and now in the present day their existence is banned so they are forced to hide their identities. One thing I love is that in this world, magic comes at a cost, so whatever you do will rebound on you in a somewhat karmic way.

The plot is brilliantly written and packed with twists and turns. There is an incredible depth of storyline and the world of the curse workers is fully fleshed out. Workers are divided into different groups (death workers that can kill with a touch, memory workers who can rewrite your life) and exist as an underground society since the ban, with most working as con artists or for organized gangs. There are even worker equality groups in the non-worker community. The idea of a con is woven throughout the storyline as it is a skill Cassel learnt at his mother's knee.

Cassel is a great lead character. As the normal guy in a family of workers, he is able to introduce us to their world without info-dumping and also plays the black sheep incredibly well which helps him in his quest to find out why he's being haunted by the white cat. His roommate Sam ends up as his best friend almost by accident and I loved how their friendship grew over the course of the book. Daneca the pro-worker supporter adds some comic relief to the book with her determintion to win Cassel to her side.

Cassel's family on the other hand was a different story. I didn't really like either of his brothers or his jailbird mother, but I adored his death worker grandfather Desi. He brought a new dimension to the story and quickly became a favourite character.

All in all, this was a great read and I'm looking forward to Red Glove.

Plot: 10/10
Characters: 10/10
Ending: 10/10
Enjoyment: 10/10
Cover: 9/10

Overall: 49/50
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Holly Black is fast becoming one of my favourite female authors. I now rank her with Terry Tempest Williams, Madeleine L'Engle and Kathy Shaidle. Her works are dark, witty and sublime. Her world creation is believable and compelling, and something about every one of her books I have read has touched something deep and sometimes dark inside myself. Black has a way of drawing the reader into her world that makes you become a part of it. While reading this book I dreamed about it, and found myself reflecting upon it and the alternate reality it presents again and again. I cannot get the story out of my head, and to be honest I do not want to. Not since reading Madeleine L'Engle's books about a decade ago has an author's words and worlds impacted me so completely from a fictional novel.

The story is set in an alternate reality to our own timeline. Except instead of just booze being banned during prohibition, so is magic, or working as it becomes known. Though the ban on booze was lifted, the ban on magic was not. So in a time very close to our own, most people wear gloves for fear of being touched and worked by one with the gift. And people either fear that they have the ability or that they don't and are just 'normal'. Our hero Cassel comes from a family of workers. Not one of the controlling crime families, much like a magic mafia, but a family with certain skills and powers. He is the only one without them, and as such he always feels on the outside. Outside his own family because he does not have the gift and is not fully part of their plan, and on the outside at school because he comes from a family of workers. Cassel, just wants to be a normal boy in high school. The problem is, he killed his best friend four years ago, and even though he doesn't remember doing it, he remembers her body and his family cleaning up the mess for him.

Cassel's problems start when he sleep walks and nearly falls off the roof of his school dorm. Then he realizes all the pieces of his life, his memories, do not fit together right. He begins to wonder if he has been worked. He has a lot to figure out and not a lot of time to do it, and even fewer people he can trust.

Cassel is a strong character, troubled, and in a tight spot, but someone who is working to resolve his issues and trying to do the right thing. He is someone you grow to respect and appreciate, someone you would want as your friend.

The story is well written and the world Black has created is enthralling. Black leads us down a path where magic, the fey and the country witch developed into mainstays in our culture, not just something trifling at the sides. Though their practice and arts are against the law, many still use them, for both good and bad. Where charms and protection are needed, but cannot always to be trusted. As Black writes about the curse workers, you will fall under her charm and be captivated by her writings, and maybe be a little worked to love her and her books.
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The Curse Worker trilogy has just recently finished with the April release of the final instalment, Black Heart. I had seen many people say great things about the series but it was just one of those that I never got round to reading.

White Cat was definitely not what I expected, reading the blurb or hearing summaries using the word `magic' does not really capture what this story is about, it's more to do with curses, ones that can potentially back fire. What was really interesting was how it changed society - to perform curse work you have to touch someone with your bare hands and therefore everyone goes around wearing gloves and it's seen as taboo to have bare hands - that was a really interesting concept. I found it to be an incredibly new take on magic in general, I liked that they couldn't just get away with doing these evil things without having something happen to them in return - Karmic retribution if you will.

I also really loved that it's set in our world but with an alternative history - everything is the same as our world but with curse workers, all the historical events happened such as the Wall Street Crash in 1929 but also the ban on curse working; which as a history nerd I found to be a really cool idea. I also loved that it's kind of has a mafia/ old school gangster feel going on with families and initiations and big parties and also organized crime and killings - it was fascinating and not something I've ever read before.

However it took quite some time to get into White Cat, I can't explain why but it wasn't one of those books that I had to devour all in one sitting. I think the story took quite some time to develop and to pick up speed. I loved the ending, the twist was great and I did not expect it! 100 points to Holly Black for being completely sneaky. I loved the double - crossing kind of aspect of the plot and how you don't really know whose on which side.

As for the characters I loved all the `evil' ones! It's so very rare in YA that you get believable `villains' that have done legitimately bad things, instead of nasty blonde popular girls saying horrible things it was murder, so I really loved all the characters that were involved in the darker side of the family and all of it's dodgy dealings. Cassel seemed very believable I liked how he was struggling to be an outsider, how he learnt about himself throughout the story and realised that he wasn't actually who he thought he was in more ways than one. My favourite discovery was that he thought he was an amazing con - artist and liar and I found it really intriguing to see him trying to discover if he truly was and whether he wanted to be. Also he kind of wrestled with the idea of what was right and wrong about that, especially since from a young age - lying and stealing and all things that are traditionally seen as morally corrupt were the norm to him.

I liked White Cat and would definitely recommend it to anyone who, like me, hasn't gotten around to reading it - it is a truly unique read. I'm definitely going to give Red Glove, the second in the trilogy, a shot as soon as I can get my hands on it.
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on 2 May 2016
I enjoyed it; I loved the worldbuilding and some of the concepts, and even though I’m not raving about it, it’s a good book! It’d make a very good read for teenagers (it is pushed as a YA) but is a nice one for adults too; it doesn’t present anything majorly challenging but at the same time, is a story about identity and guilt, magic and family…The story’s interesting, and you’re immediately sucked into the plot; Cassel’s interesting, horrible, conflicted and brilliantly written. The worldbuilding is excellent, and I loved the way magic’s done, particularly for the death-workers! The plot twists are also excellent.

However…I never quite felt the world was a whole. I struggled between the “magic” and the “con” sides of things; I think the danger and the crime element could probably have been played more strongly, at least on Cassel’s side (his mother being in prison was a good indicator of what could happen if things went wrong). I suppose the “magic being outlawed” aspect was the flaw for me; everyone in the book wanted to not be using it because it was dangerous, not because the rest of the world had issues with it. I wonder if the book’s been slightly mis-sold as well; the blurb on the cover is “You’re only a finger-tip away from another world” – which is true, but it’s not a world-walking, another reality thing. It’s a “someone can kill you with a touch”, which is a bit of a different prospect! When I re-read the blurb, I don’t exactly see the book I read…so I’m not sure how much that affected my expectations of what I was going to read, and how much that would help if it was changed.

I’m not sure if I’m going to pick up the next one – I have other things I’d rather read, and I’m not that invested in the world or story that I have to know what happens next. But I’d recommend it to anyone who likes magic and crime, with a dose of nice plot twists and a good characterisation!
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on 10 August 2014
I thought there wasn’t much room left in the YA genre for a completely new prospect but I eat my words. I have not read anything like this, full stop. Holly Black has written a unique and beautiful novel that I loved a lot more than I expected!

The start was admittedly slow because since it’s the first in a series there was of course world-building; and while it wasn’t bad/boring, it was hard to get into the story and connect to the characters but it quickly picked up and from then on never let up. I loved the ever present humour and the start was brilliant, with the male protagonist hanging from a roof in his boxers… A very clear indicator that this would be a fun book. The world of Curse Workers where people can change your emotions, or turn you into a cat, or remove memories with single touch is incredibly interesting, and there’s a lot more that can come from it.

As far as characters went I thought Cassel’s family was shady to say the least. Cassel’s the only non-worker in the family and with that came a lot of secrets and dodging around the truth like it was the plague. They never gave straight answers and as con-artists were very good at lying; it all came with the job of being a Curse Worker because the second someone realised they were being Worked everything would go up in smoke and they’d be carted off to jail (Cassel’s mother learnt that the hard way, but God only knows if she learnt her lesson).

Cassel was easily my favourite part of the book because it was easy to see him as a real person: likeable but flawed (it was easy to forget it’s written by a female, so well done Black!). He’s the laid back guy who prefers to hide in the shadows where drama still manages to find him; and what’s most surprising is that he’s not the type of person you expect to rise up and be a hero, but he does even when he doesn’t think can do it himself. I really wanted things to work out for him but of course if that happened there would be no story! Instead he faces complicated obstacle after obstacle trying to cling onto what parts of himself he still had left untouched by poisonous lies.

Now while I’m not usually a romance fanatic I think it needed something more than Cassel’s memories of a girl he loved that to be honest sounded really spiteful and just plain bitchy. He didn’t drone on about her *phew* and she was mentioned plenty enough for me as is, but perhaps someone else could have added something to the story? Just an idea, but still this was a great book and if you’re dubious about it like I was just have a go and stick with it. You won’t regret it and you just might end up loving it…

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on 16 February 2014
.....but so much better instead! I loved the concept of the book - it brought to mind a parallel world where criminal gangs hold power through magic & fear. The storyline fed my love of cats, magic & "the con". Can't wait to read the follow ups!
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on 19 March 2012
*I repeat, minor spoilers for the book in this review*

My main frustration with this book was a technical and personal one: it was written entirely in first person present tense, which I loathe. I will actually avoid books using this narrative technique because I hate it so much but, as it was Holly Black novel, I decided to try and get over my aversion. Which sort of worked. There was nothing remotely wrong with this story. The story was good what with its ambiguous characters, who were neither good or bad, and decent, if a bit vague (my issues with the narrative rearing their head again), world building. Even Cassel was not a character who you could call a good guy - he gets his kicks out of conning people, for heaven's sake. A novel with this narrative style is too fixed and has too narrow a viewpoint for me. I like to know as much as possible when reading.

It wasn't all bad, though. If there's one thing I like in a book, it's an unreliable narrator. I like not knowing if the character is being truthful or playing with my trust. I like not being able to believe a single thing that the character tells me. Cassel was one of the most unreliable narrators I have read in a while, not only because he keeps things from the reader but also because almost every other character was keeping things from him. That made it interesting to me and is all I'm saying about it because to say more would spoil the book even further.

As well as being unreliable as a narrator and a con artist, Cassel was also completely likeable. I found myself rooting for him throughout. Cassel killed someone and the frustration of not remembering what happened, the guilt of knowing he's a killer, was well written and definitely something that helped with the sympathy I felt towards him.

The other characters were also well written. The good were good (I loved Cassel's roommate Sam and how he also realises that conning people is fun. I hope to read more of him in the subsequent novels), the bad were awful and the in between ones were the best by far.

Holly Black also does something fun with the plot that I wasn't expecting: she lulls you into thinking you are a clever so-and-so who has guessed what's going on from the start just to pull the rug out from under you right at the very end, thus making the writing unreliable also.

While I didn't quite get over my aversion to first person present tense narratives, I found a lot of other things to enjoy in White Cat. Unreliable narrators, characters whose motives aren't clear and a twisty-turny plot that keeps you guessing are more than enough to make be pick up the next in the series.
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on 12 October 2013
I thought this an unusual book and on occasions found myself losing interest in the sometimes confusing storyline and struggling to stick with reading to the end. However, I persevered and did manage to finish the book although find it difficult to give a high recommendation. The basic concept of magic 'workers' did not really capture my imagination within the framework of the characters being described, but obviously from the positive reviews this does work for some people. Don't think I will bother with the rest of the trilogy.
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I'd seen this book around but I hadn't heard much about it, and then I saw it in my library and just decided to pick it up. It did take me a while to actually get around to reading this book, I just wasn't in the mood for it. I'm so glad I finally got around to picking it up though because I really enjoyed it.

White Cat follows a boy called Cassel who murdered his best friend. He's constantly haunted by the memory of it and he puts on a front to try and fit in at school. Cassel's family is one of the big five crime families in America. Each member of these families has a unique power they can use to manipulate people. Cassel thinks his brothers hate him because he's the only person in their family who can't do magic. But there's something else going on and Cassel is about to uncover a dark secret.

To start with, I was unsure whether I was going to enjoy this book or not. It was quite slow and confusing at the start but I gradually managed to grasp what was going on in this book and then I was suddenly hooked. I wanted to know what Cassel's brothers were hiding from him and find out more about what happened when Cassel murdered his best friend.

Cassel has grown up haunted by the memory of what he did. He's always questioning himself and wondering whether he'll do it again. I felt so bad for Cassel. He couldn't even have a normal life because that memory destroyed him. He's in constant fear that this monster is going to jump out of him and kill again that he tries to hide who he is and puts up a shield. He doesn't feel like he fits in anywhere. Cassel was a pretty strong character. After everything he'd been through and everything he deals with everyday, he manages to keep it together. He's also very determined. As soon as he realises something is being hidden from him, he does everything he can to try and figure out what it is, even if it means endangering his life.

The whole storyline revolving around workers and their powers was extremely interesting. I loved finding out the back story to them and finding out why they're banned now. It was also interesting finding out what powers the characters in this book had.

The one problem I had with this book was that Cassel wasn't figuring things out quick enough for me. I'd figure something out and it'd take him another 4-5 chapters to realise. I wanted to hit him and make him realise sooner! Some of the things were just so damn obvious and I couldn't believe that Cassel didn't realise until later.

I felt so bad for Cassel at the end. After everything he'd been through, his mother went and done that and I wanted to punch her. I'm actually really looking forward to seeing how everything it going to play out in the next book and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Cassel will be able to find a solution for what happened at the end.

Overall, this was an intriguing and enjoyable novel. There were times it was slow and predictable, but I still really enjoyed it. It's a book I'd definitely recommend giving a go.
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on 24 October 2013
This tale seemed unremarkable to begin with but gradually drew me in until I was thoroughly engrossed. The writer has a vivid imagination and whilst the story has a fantasy element, it did not seem too far-fetched. The characters were believable and the storyline was well paced and cleverly concluded.
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