Friday, December 28, 2012

WHITE CAT


Review of WHITE CAT by HOLLY BLACK
(first in the CURSE WORKERS series, review based on an advance reading copy)

I didn't particularly like Black's TITHE series, so WHITE CAT wasn't really on my radar...until I heard Black speak at Sirens (a literature conference)
. She was hilarious. I not only shed tears of laughter, but I worked my abdominal muscles pretty well during her keynote! She more than earned a second chance and I'm so glad I tried WHITE CAT, because it lived up to high expectations.

The book hooks right from the start with a unique opening: Cassel, our protagonist, awakens from a bout of sleepwalking to find himself on the school roof in his boxers with a curious crowd watching the spectacle. On second thought, the book hooks even before the first word, with the premise. If you read anything about this novel before starting it, you'll note the compelling magic system. Cassel lives in an alternate world to our own. Much seems exactly or nearly the same from history to pop culture, except, of course, there's magic in Cassel's world. Magic users are persecuted and feared for their power and, since a magic user (called curse worker) has to touch someone to work magic on them, it has become common practice for everyone to wear gloves. As Cassel informs us, “In health class, our teacher used to say that if someone came toward you on the street with bare hands, consider those hands to be as potentially deadly as unsheathed blades.” As if that premise and opening weren't enough promise for a good story, Cassel confesses within the first few pages that he murdered his best friend. If you're like me, you will assume there must be more to that story and, sure enough, the entire book centers around that event and blossoms out with more complications and twists than I ever could have imagined during that first chapter.

The story's packed with turnabouts and shocking revelations. I actually predicted most of the twists, and yet that didn't lessen my interest in the new developments in the slightest. In fact, it might have kept me more riveted, since Black focuses on her characters and the emotional ramifications of each new wrinkle rather than a "Ha! Got You!" sense of satisfaction in blindsiding the reader.

The end kept to this trend. I pseudo called the final surprise, but nevertheless felt as slammed in the gut as Cassel must. Stellar ending. Perfect last line. Black's officially back on my radar.

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