Holly Black – White Cat
67. White Cat by Holly Black (2010)
Curse Workers, Book 1
Read By: Jesse Eisenberg
Length: 6h 40min (310 pages)
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Started: 08 June 2012
Finished: 20 June 2012
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I like Black’s work, and came across this one while poking around the audiobook section.
When magic is done
by touch, letting someone get
close is a bad plan.
Summary: Cassel Sharpe doesn’t fit in with his family. Everyone else in his family is a Worker – magicians who are able to influence other people via skin contact – and although he’s been trained in the art of the con job, Cassel doesn’t have any magic of his own. Curse Working is illegal, and Cassel’s mom’s in jail, while his older brothers are involved to varying degrees with one of the Worker crime families. But Cassel’s got other problems: he wakes up one night nearly naked on the roof of his dorm, and cannot convince the school administration that he was just sleepwalking. They kick him out, worried that he’s a danger to himself and others. Cassel would say that that’s crazy, but he doesn’t have a better explanation for what’s really going on, plus he just can’t shake his memories of the time when he came to covered in blood… and with his childhood sweetheart dead at his feet.
Review: Whenever I watch Law & Order or any of its derivatives, I tend to tune out or skip over the episodes that heavily feature organized crime. I can’t really explain why, but mob stories just don’t hold a lot of interest for me, so White Cat was automatically working at somewhat of a disadvantage. Despite that, however, it did a lot of things right, and I wound up enjoying it quite a bit more than I would have expected given the premise.
One of the main things White Cat does right was tell a complete, entertaining story in a compact space without a whole lot of messing around. I figured out the first major plot point right before the main character did, and was feeling both a little smug, and surprised that they were giving away something so major so early – I’d only been listening for a few hours, after all. But then I realized that “only a few hours” was still almost 2/3s of the way through the book, and that the pacing was right on track. Black manages to pack the main plot, a few secondary story threads, and some decent character development into a very short space – an impressive accomplishment, particularly given the tendency of fantasy novels towards sprawl.
I didn’t love the main character – Cassel comes off as a strange balance between cocky and whiney, which fits with his age and his background, but which I didn’t find particularly endearing. I do have to wonder how much of that was the writing, and how much was the narration – Jesse Eisenberg was overall a really good fit for the character, but may have accentuated the whininess in parts. Overall, this was an interesting change of pace from the YA fantasy I normally read, and while I didn’t love it to pieces, I definitely enjoyed it enough to pick up the rest of the series. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Recommended for fans of YA fantasy, particularly urban fantasy, who are tired of vampires, werewolves, etc.
First Line: I wake up barefoot, standing on cold slate tiles.
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