The first installment in The Curse Workers series from New York Times bestselling author Holly Black: “Urban fantasy, con story—whatever you call it, read it” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
Cassel comes from a family of con artists and grifters, all of them curse workers but him. On top of that, Cassel is plagued by guilt that he killed his best friend, Lila, years ago.
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, and what that means about his actions. In Cassel’s search for answers about Lila and himself, he realizes that his brothers have been conning him for years, and that the final piece in their quest for power is about to fall into place. Cassel has other ideas. He’s going to create an even more elaborate trap and, with Lila’s help, con a bunch of magic using conmen.
This “beautifully realized dark fantasy…with prose that moves from stark simplicity to almost surreal intensity in a moment” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) is rife with the unexpected. “Readers will be hooked” (Booklist) on White Cat.
The back cover of this book has the following New York Times quote: “A noir thriller.”
It is the single best summation of what exactly this book is. Oh, it has aspects of urban fantasy, but it honestly more feels like a thriller with hints of magical realism than a full on fantasy.
For all the talk of curse working in this book, you practically never see it. This is a book of relationships: Cassel and his brothers. Cassel and his grandfather. Cassel and his classmates. It’s about how he interacts with them and how it all starts to change as he uncovers truths about his past. It’s very good. It’s very atmospheric. It’s very grounded.
It barely feels like fantasy at all.
It doesn’t need more fantasy than it has, but it also means that those that might really enjoy this book could easily pass it up because of the label, and that’s just not fair to the book.
That being said, the fantastic underpinnings are rather interesting: a certain aspect of the population of the world can “work.” They can change your luck, your emotions, your memories, or even your body. Its one of the systems that almost works on a karmic level: kill someone, kill part of yourself. Alter someone’s memory, lose part of your own. It’s neat and it’s neat watching the consequences play through.
All told, this is a great little thriller and it’s quite enjoyable watching Cassel put all the pieces together. It just happens to have a bit of fantasy added for spice.
Verdict: Buy It