Saturday, June 23, 2012
Have you ever felt like you were the one unimportant, ordinary person out of the entire group of extraordinary people? In a world where curse workers are feared and "working" (curses) are illegal, imagine being born into a family of curse workers but being the only one not to be a worker. In Holly Black's White Cat, Cassel has the unfortunate life of being born into a family filled with criminals who just happen to be curse workers, but his only talent is being a pretty good con artist.
People are so scared about being worked by a curse worker they all wear gloves and won't touch bare hands. Because curse work is illegal, most workers are criminals and get absorbed by the local crime families to do their dirty work. Since he isn't a worker in a family of thugs and workers, Cassel just wants a normal life away from the business. He sees his normal prep school as salvation from the family business. But when he is found on the roof in the middle of the night after having sleepwalked out of his bedroom window, the school won't let him return. Forced to return home to his crazy hitman grandfather, his two shifty brothers, and with his mother currently doing time in prison, Cassel tries to live life as normally as possible.
That might be possible if he could get it out of his head how he murdered the girl he loved, Lila, daughter and heir to the rival crime family. His memory is spotty on exactly what happened and why he did it, but all he can remember is all that blood and his family helping him hide the crime and the body. As he spends more time with his family, it becomes clear that something strange is happening. His brother Barron seems to be losing his memory and someone has clearly worked his brother Phillip's wife. As Cassel digs a little deeper, he discovers his memory of the night he killed Lila might not be so clear after all. Fearing he has been worked, Cassel takes steps to assure he can't be worked anymore. In doing so, he might discover the truth about his family that he never, ever wanted to know. But you know what they say? The truth will set you free!
The idea of a supernatural mafia is a pretty cool concept! This is like "Sopranos" meets "X-Men"! And the government's move to make curse working illegal has only made them all flee to illegal venues for their craft where mob families collect them like tchotchkes. Cassel's character was a perfect mix of a product of a family full of criminals (he ran book at his prep school) and wanting a normal life (desperate to return to his life away from his worker family). He was clearly torn between his two worlds, a feeling I am sure many teens can relate to (although probably not in the supernatural killer way, of course). I would love to see the parallels our kids could find between their own lives and Cassel's life.
This was an intriguing start to a series that would appeal to any fan of supernatural/paranormal stories. There isn't much romance, although the hint of its possibility to come is out there. The story ends well, but clearly continues in the remainder of the trilogy, so you can read the one book or continue on if you wish. It is also relatively clean for a variety of ages, although it might appeal to a middle school/junior high group rather than much older students. I am interested to see where the rest of the series goes!