07 September 2010

Review: White Cat by Holly Black

In Cassel Sharpe's world, prohibition applied not only to alcohol but also to curse work (magic). But when liquor was made legal, curse work was still forbidden, which led to the rise of the New Jersey families.

The crime syndicates are run by skilled workers (magicians), who can alter dreams, change memories, create emotions, and cause death all with a single touch of a bare hand on bare skin. Everyone wears gloves, and there is a thriving market in protective charms.

Holly Black's White Cat: The Curse Workers Book One is a fresh and unique approach to the young adult paranormal genre. The story, which is part magic, part paranormal, and a lot mobster, is told by Cassel Sharpe, the only nonworker in a family known for its curse-work skills. He has compensated by becoming a talented grifter, and he makes a nice income as a clandestine bookie at his private high school.

Unfortunately not much more can be said without revealing spoilers. The plot is well constructed, and although it is possible to figure out some of the plot before events are revealed, there is plenty that will catch you off-guard. The mobster theme and alternate history are perfectly presented, making it easy to suspend belief.

The Sharpes are delightfully dysfunctional, and Cassel's mother and grandfather are particularly colorful. Although Cassel is often bullied by his older brothers, he is no pushover, and it is fun to see how the teen works his cons.

I listened to the audiobook edition (Listening Library) read by Jesse Eisenberg, who brilliantly conveyed Cassel's wide range of emotions from frustration to sorrow, love, fear, and excitement. His reading made it easy for me to get lost the story, and I listened to the entire 6.75-hour production in two evenings. My review focusing on the narrative performance was published on the AudioFile magazine website.

This video interview with Holly Black explains the setting of White Cat better than I can. There are no spoilers in this video.

White Cat at Powell's
White Cat at Book Depository
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Published by Simon & Schuster / Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010
ISBN-13: 9781416963967

YTD: 79
Source: Review--both print and audio (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Sandy Nawrot 9/7/10, 6:56 AM  

Ah! You had me at "white cat"! I'm thinking I may try to track this one down for the kids and I, after we finish Mockingjay...

serendipity_viv 9/7/10, 7:25 AM  

I loved this book. I really do enjoy Holly Black's books.

Literary Feline 9/7/10, 8:42 AM  

I've wondered about this series and am so glad to see you review the first book here. This sounds like a great series.

Jenn's Bookshelves 9/7/10, 8:50 AM  

This one has been on my radar for some time. I really must bump it up on my "to read" list!

Nise' 9/7/10, 9:00 AM  

Great review. I read this book recently and enjoyed it as well. Looking forward to the next book in the series.

Nely 9/7/10, 10:24 AM  

I met Holly earlier this year and she is the cutest thing ever! I still haven't gotten around to reading her book though. :( Thanks for the review.

bermudaonion 9/7/10, 2:20 PM  

I've always been fascinated by the mob, so I just might enjoy this paranormal book!

Dorte H 9/7/10, 4:03 PM  

It´s so interesting to see how popular paranormal stories are right now, also in crime fiction. I like them when they are written well.

Rhiannon 9/7/10, 4:09 PM  

I really loved Cassels Grandpa (well really the whole book as well, but he was my favorite). I should try audio books! they always sound interesting.
I've linked to your post on mine of the same, here: http://www.thediaryofabookworm.com/2010/09/white-cat-by-holly-black-review.html

Michelle 9/7/10, 5:42 PM  

I've seen mixed reviews on this one. I keep pushing it to the back of my pile but hearing that you liked it makes me want to push it forward again.

Alice 9/7/10, 7:37 PM  

I think I've only read The Spiderwick Chronicles so far. I definitely want to read more of Holly Black's books. Paranormal is so very my thing!

Heather 9/8/10, 8:36 AM  

It's in my Audible cart right now! I'm not sure what I'm waiting for, since I have 2 credits, but I will get it very soon! I'm intrigued by the premise and your rave review of Jesse Eisenberg!

Robin M 9/8/10, 3:19 PM  

Adding it to my wishlist. Sounds like a good one for my ereader.

Carrie K. 9/9/10, 12:49 AM  

I loved this on audio, too!

TheBookGirl 9/9/10, 9:40 AM  

I don't usually read paranormal things, but this sounds intriguing...I like that you recommend the audio version, think I'll try that :)

Fyrefly 9/10/10, 10:29 AM  

Crime fiction is usually not my thing at all, but I've enjoyed Holly Black's other books, so this one might convince me to change my mind about the genre...

Unknown 9/13/10, 1:40 PM  

This one sounds really good..and glad the audio is fantastic. I'll be checking my library to see if they have the audio for me to borrow.

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