Title: White Cat (Curse Workers, Book 1)
Author: Holly Black
Genre: YA paranormal fiction
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from Shelf Awareness, audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Jesse Eisenberg
First line: I wake up barefoot, standing on cold slate tiles.
Cassel Sharpe is the only non-worker in a family of workers, people able to use specific magical gifts. Memory workers, death workers, luck workers, emotion workers – they have amazing power to control and manipulate, even kill. That’s why working is illegal – but that doesn’t stop the major crime families from employing workers in order to further their criminal empires.
Cassel’s two older brothers, Philliip and Barron, are both workers in the employ of the Zakarov family. Zakarov has left Cassel alone because he’s not a worker – and because he doesn’t know that when Cassel was 14, he killed Lila, Zakarov’s daughter – and Cassel’s best friend. He has no memory of the actual killing, but remembers standing over Lila’s bleeding body with a knife in his hand and a smile on his face.
In an attempt to have a normal life, Cassel is attending a boarding school, trying to ignore the guilt over Lila and to stay out of the entanglements of his worker family. But when he starts having strange dreams about a white cat – dreams that involve sleep-walking and almost throwing himself from the roof of the school – he knows he needs to find out what’s going on. As he starts to dig, he realizes that everything he’s believed about himself may not be true, and the people closest to him are the ones telling the lies.
I love it when my library acquires an audiobook version of a title I have committed to reviewing – it’s one way to get caught up on review obligations. When I received White Cat, I loved the cover and was excited to read it – but then I became a bit disillusioned by the YA paranormal titles that were all starting to blend together in a hodge-podge of sameness. I shouldn’t have hesitated – White Cat has its own unique premise, a fantastic cast of characters, and makes a perfect beginning to what could be a terrific series.
This YA novel takes the mafia, adds in a family of con artists, and then gives it one final twist with the idea of curse workers. Cassel has always felt like the family misfit – the one person in his family not gifted with the ability to work magic. He’s a wonderfully angsty teenage boy – complete with ordinary quandries about girls and homework and friendship – living in an extraordinary world. His family of con artist and workers have taught him not to trust anyone, but when he is faced with trying to undo some of the damage his older brothers have perpetrated, he has to decide to trust his non-worker school friends, Sam and Daneca.
Jesse Eisenberg does a great job narrating the book – varying his voice between characters, and doing a hint of a Russian accent for Zakarov. His voice is a typical teenage voice – which made him the perfect choice for Cassel.
I am very excited about this series – and wishing that I didn’t have to wait until next year to read the second installment.