I picked up this book on the glowing review of a friend — and while I am familiar with Holly Black and her fantastic writing skills (Tithe being one of my favorite modern faerie tales), I was shocked by this book. In all the good ways.
Book Jacket Summary:
Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. Since curse work is illegal, theyre all criminals. But not Cassel. He hasn’t got the magic touch, so he’s an outsider — the straight kid in a crooked family — as long as you ignore ne small detail: He killed his best friend, Lila. How he is sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat. He also notices that his brothers are keeping secrets from him. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to outcon the conmen.
I won’t go too far into detail, because I honestly think Savs does a fantastic job of reviewing this book. In summary, the characters are compelling and the plot is both unexpected (but not surprising, as Savs points out) and believable. Just a few thoughts to follow.
The plot is, summed up in a word, captivating. Right from the first page, I was drawn into the narrative. More importantly, I always believed the next twist in the story. Granted, that did give it a little bit of predictability (I won’t give it away, but trust me when I say you’ll see a large part of it coming at least twenty pages before the narrator draws the conclusion). Regardless, the vague predictability never takes away from the enjoyment of the novel — because, despite the fact that you know approximately the next revolutionary plot twist Cassel will uncover, you’re not entirely sure of the details. And more importantly, you don’t know what the next twist will be until you’ve learned more. The foresight to see one twist in front, but not two? It makes me more intrigued, and ends up with me still reading at 4:30am. No joke.
The characters are human. I don’t really say that lightly, either. They have that great level of believability — where they are a little bad and a little good, and the line between “good guys” and “bad guys” really depends on the respective quantities of good and bad in each person. Each character has hopes and desires which drive their plans, as well as fears and fatal flaws (pride and greed being heavily prominent) common in humanity. The only characters I’m holding my judgement on are the mother and the grandfather, whom I don’t think are quite as fleshed out as the others. The mother, I can completely understand, as she is in jail for almost the entirety of the novel. The grandfather…well, I think we just don’t know enough about him. But honestly, thats almost the point.
This book is very different from the Tithe series, but very similar in other ways. While both deal with the modern world as we (mostly) know it, Tithe created a society under the one we know, while White Cat created a new history woven into the one we are already familiar with. I’m not sure the history is quite fleshed out, but I think the basic nature of it adds to the believability. Additionally, I think it’s much more challenging to do, and I’m honestly impressed — because while creating a world hidden from ours but completely believable is fantastic, it is ten times more difficult to create a believable world which is almost ours, yet so entirely different.
I also want to say that I love Black’s concept of romance. She gave me just enough of the romance between Cassel and Lila to be so excited about the ending — but also enough about their history and personalities to understand the plot twist hidden there. A plot twist that is so believable because Black has been setting it up the entire novel: in the end, we — and Cassel — realize we were stupid to be so easily conned when she’d been warning us the entire novel.
I look forward to April 11, when the next book is released. Find the countdown here at the bottom of the page!
In the end, I’m not sure how to rate books. But considering I stayed up because I had to get this review off my chest as soon as possible, anyone should understand that it’s worth your time. On the scale of “borrow it from a friend” to “buy it in hardback for your library,” I would recommend owning a physical copy (paperback or hardback depends on how much you enjoy young adult fiction).