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. And since curse work is illegal, they’re all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn’t got the magic touch, so he’s an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.
Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He’s noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.
Holly Black has created a gripping tale of mobsters and dark magic where a single touch can bring love — or death — and your dreams might be more real than your memories.
This book blew me away. I’ve been waiting for Black’s new series since Ironside came out two years ago. Let me start with this: Holly Black does not disappoint.
I always read critically when a female author writes a male character. Cassel is not the troubled boy who needs a girl to save him. Instead, he’s a troubled boy because he didn’t save a girl. The guilt and tension over his murder shades the book beautifully. The motivation to not lose control shapes his decisions as he slowly unravels the night he killed his girlfriend.
Another strength was Cassel not doing what he is told. Instead of going off alone, he takes his friends Sam and Daneca with him on his missions, using their strengths instead of trying to be a hero. This strikes me as another example of Black’s amazing characterization skills. When faced with a mafia that can curse you, I wouldn’t want to fight them alone. I also liked the way their strengths and weaknesses are addressed.
I can’t guarantee that mystery fans will love this book, but once I finished, I went out and bought some Raymond Chandler. If you like magical mysteries like The Dresden Files, pick up White Cat and tell me what you think!
Originally published November 25, 2010