Release date: This UK Paperback April 2011
Genre: Fantasy / Urban Fantasy
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Indigo Imprint, Orion
White Cat is a dark and twisted fantasy set in a contemporary world where some people are born with the power to curse. This magic was outlawed in 1929 and the laws of prohibition sent the gifted into the shadows. The magical worker families turned to crime and so now they use the curses are used to control their empires and fulfil their desires. They are the magical mafia. Holly Black’s White Cat is a wonderfully original and compelling read.
Cassel Sharpe is born into a family of curse workers. He has spent his whole life wanting to be a worker like the rest of his family. His older brothers have the magic in their hands, just like their parents and their grandparents. But Cassel is different because he can’t work magic. He is, however, an excellent con artist, a skill he did learn from his family – especially his mother who is currently in prison. Cassel can lie and cheat and manipulate and worse than that he can’t help but enjoy it.
The fantasy element of this novel is initially quite difficult to grasp but as you learn about Cassel and his life, you slowly come to grasp how the magic is worked. The people wear gloves but it isn’t hard to pull out a few threads and let the magic through and of course, you can choose to remove your gloves. The novel opens with Cassel standing on a roof in nothing but his underwear. It is the middle of the night and he has no idea how he got there. Did he sleepwalk? Or has someone been working him? If they were working him, what did they want him to do? And then there is the big family secret that haunts him: he is a cold-blooded killer. He murdered his childhood friend.
All this would make anyone a little paranoid and Cassel is no exception. He trusts no one, not his family, not his friends and unsurprisingly, not even himself. He may be part of a family of criminals but he is a very likeable character. The fact that Cassel wants to be good makes all the difference. I was cheering him on and hoping that he could somehow find a way out of the criminal life.
One of the things that I really liked about this book was Cassel’s intelligence. As I was making connections between the actions of other characters, he was making them too. It made the story and the plot all the more believable. There was none of that: “Why hasn’t he asked that question yet?”
This is the first novel I have read by Holly Black. I know she is a very popular author and now I can see why. White Cat is very well written and has entirely believable coherent fantasy world of its own. It’s a book that I can wholeheartedly recommend and I cannot wait to read on with Red Glove.Thanks to Orion Books for sending me the book to review.