Author: Holly Black
Publication Date: 5/4/10
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Book
Blurb (GR): The first in a trilogy, this gritty, fast-paced fantasy is rife with the unexpected. Cassel comes from a shady, magical family of con artists and grifters. He doesn't fit in at home or at school, so he's used to feeling like an outsider. He's also used to feeling guilty--he killed his best friend, Lila, years ago. But when Cassel begins to have strange dreams about a white cat, and people around him are losing their memories, he starts to wonder what really happened to Lila. In his search for answers, he discovers a wicked plot for power that seems certain to succeed. But Cassel has other ideas-- and a plan to con the conmen.
Well, well, well. Color me surprised. Just when I decided never to read another Holly Black work again (due to our seemingly conflicting ideas about what good writing is), Emily's review of White Cat convinced me to give the author one final try. And, who knew, I really, really liked it. Actually, this book is one of the strongest YA UF novels I've ever read. I am not exactly sure what made Black change her writing style so drastically, but I won't be complaining. Somehow her characters are no longer repulsive and her writing is a lot more polished than before.
As for the story itself, I thought it was fantastic. It is set in an AU America where certain people have magic abilities (they are called "curse workers"). They can manipulate emotions, change memories, bring luck or death. The magic is "worked" through touch. Cassel, the narrator, belongs to a family of curse workers/con artists. He can do cons too, but has no magic abilities. When he finds himself sleepwalking on the roof of his school dorm, haunted by the memories of a dream where a white cat asks for his help, Cassel embarks on a trip to discover mysteries of his past, present and the white cat.
Even though I'd read way too many reviews of White Cat before starting the novel, I still managed to be thoroughly mystified by its plot. I attribute it to the fact that this book has a bit of Memento-esque quality to it, with gradual unraveling of the mysteries tangled up by various cons and curse works. (Or my usual denseness wherever any kind of mystery-solving is involved.)
And can I say Yay for mafia and con artistry? White Cat gave me what All These Things I've Done couldn't - just enough crime, backstabbing and cons to keep me glued to its pages/my iPod.
Can't wait to get my hands on the sequels. Cassel's mom is up to no good. And what will he do about Lila?
I guess the lesson here is Never say never?