Review: White Cat by Holly Black

Monday, March 18, 2013 9:00 AM
Title: White Cat 
Author: Holly Black
Published: January 1, 2010
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Series: Curse Workers #1
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Pages: 310
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
“The easiest lies to tell are the ones you want to be true.”
―Holly Black, White Cat

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 criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. But not Cassel. He hasn't got magic, 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.

Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his facade starts to crumble when he finds himself 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. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
I have seriously missed out. Before White Cat, I had never read a single book by Holly Black, but I am definitely a fan of her writing now. White Cat was a fast-paced, thrilling read that had me guessing from the start. I loved how Black brilliantly intertwined reality and fiction, magic and the mafia. How did she even come up with this wildly imaginative storyline? White Cat is basically The Sopranos meets Harry Potter. We have mobster curse workers living the life of luxury, and I went just ballistic for it. These curse workers have the ability to do anything from tamper with your memory to alter your emotions drastically; it all depends on the type of curse worker. Anyone who works a curse is seen as a criminal in the eyes of the law so there was A LOT of illegal activity happening in this book.

I thought the world building was out of this world (no pun intended). White Cat was insanely creative. Black gave plenty of background and history on curse working, but I never felt overwhelmed by the details. It was fascinating to hear about why the ban on curse working was passed and how curse workers have been perceived differently over time. It is clear from the start that there is a lot of prejudice against curse workers. While it's not mandated by law, everyone is expected to wear gloves at all times. Bare hands are seen as a threat. Curse workers only have to touch someone's bare skin with their ungloved hand in order to work a curse so you can see why gloves are very popular in this society. I loved how every curse had its consequences. When a curse worker works a curse, they experience blowback. For an emotion worker, the blowback could be feeling extremely emotional for a little while. While a death worker may lose a finger or an ear after working a death curse. I liked how curse work came at a cost to the worker so the workers were kept a little more in line. Well, not all of them.

I have to admit I was a little concerned about reading another book told from the male POV, especially after my disappointment in Beautiful Creatures, but Black captured the male POV perfectly. In fact, I might even have a little bit of a crush on Cassel. He's not perfect. Believe me, he's far from perfect. He's one step away from being a gangster just like his brothers and grandfather, but, unlike most of his family, he does have some moral values. Plus, he's big on family. You wouldn't expect to like him, but you can't help it. Cassel is a master of deception, and his cons even took me by surprise. Just when I thought there was no way out of a situation, Cassel would cook up some genius plan that had me reeling. I seriously never would have thought up any of his schemes. Not in a million years. But what Cassel doesn't realize is that he's conning himself. Despite others' insistence that he is a good person, he refuses to believe that he can be anything but a criminal. He's constantly dwelling on the mistakes he's made in the past and he's blind to the good things he's done. I'm behind his decisions all the way. He's definitely one of my favorite male POVs ever, and he may even be #1.

Then there's Daneca and Sam. While the book starts off with Cassel not really having any friends, these two really make the effort to help Cassel out and gain his trust. I loved these two. Sam was hilarious and just a fun guy, and Daneca was someone you could really depend on. I look forward to seeing more of these two in future books.

White Cat was an edge of your seat, thrilling read and I cannot wait to read the rest of this series! I highly recommend it to anyone interested in reading about mobster families and magic!


  1. I loved this one too. I'm sorta hooked on male POVs. But then again, I've never tried Beautiful Creatures. Great review.

    1. I am so happy I read this one. You're going to have to tell me about more books with male POVs I should check out. :D Thanks!

  2. I actually read another one of Black's books and didn't like it all before giving this one a shot. I was really wary of it, but it was so good! I am so glad you enjoyed it also, and hope you enjoy the rest of the series too :)

    1. I'm sorry to hear that, Cindy. What book was that? And I've already read Red Glove, and I loved that one as well. I'm just waiting for Black Heart to come out in paperback before buying it since I want my books to match. Silly, I know. :P Thanks Cindy!

  3. I thought the ideas in this book were really fascinating, too. I didn't like this as much as most people seem to have done, though. I'm not entirely sure why, but I couldn't fully connect with it. But I'm glad you enjoyed it. :) Great review, Courtney!

    1. Awwww I'm sorry you didn't like it as much. I hope I like her other books just as much. Thanks Sam! :)

  4. I'm thinking that I need to read this series at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, although I would like to finish Black's Modern Faerie Tales series first. I am glad you've discovered a new author to love! This premise does sound pretty unique, and it's awesome that you feel as though Black was able to pull it off. I also need to find more YA books with realistic male protagonists, so I'll definitely be keeping White Cat in mind. :)

    1. That's great to hear! I really want to read her Modern Faerie Tales series too! And I might even consider Zombies vs Unicorns. that's a big MIGHT

  5. Heh, The Sopranos meets Harry Potter - love it! I am so pleased that you loved this one so much, Courtney! This was also my first exposure to Holly Black's writing and it certainly won't be my last. I was made an instant fan of hers. Her creativity was evident and brilliant in this series! And I have to admit that I also kind of love Cassel.

    1. Yeah, Cassel is great. I can't wait to read more by her, like her Modern Faerie Tale series! This book has made a fan out of me.


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