18 September, 2010

Book Review: White Cat

Title: The Curse Workers Book 1: White Cat
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 310
Rating: 2.7 out of 5
Cover Rating: 4 out of 5. It matches the book, the cat is perfect, and the black gloves/mafia-style psyche is all in accordance with the story. Also, I like the way the smoke/letters cover the boy's eyes. I do wonder why Holly Black's name is HOLLY BLACK and the actual title is White CatI don't like it when they do that to book titles, since I'm more for the story than for the author.

Inside flap:

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 overlook one small detail--he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.
Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crows. 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 outcon the conmen.

My expectations: High. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I read an anthology of SF/Fantasy short stories and liked Holly Blacks, or maybe it's just the cover, but I expected this to be really good.

It didn't quite meet those expectations.

About the book: You know what this reminded me of? The Rise of Renegade X. Really, it did. Cassel Sharpe (very cool name, by the way) and Damien Locke (also a very cool name) are both supposedly good boys with a bad history. They both have mothers who get into affairs and are willing to do whatever it takes to get their way. They both live in a world that's either shoot or get shot. Both of them like being bad. Their last names even end with "E".

Did Holly Black ever read The Rise of Renegade X? I wonder. But besides that, and more about White Cat.  You know, on the back of my hardcover edition there are a few famous authors giving high praise for this book. Libba Bray. Vandermeer. Scott Westerfeld. I've never read Vandermeer, but I do love Leviathan and The Gemma Doyle Trilogy. The authors say such things as "A stunning tour de force" "Just when you think you know where the story's going, it shifts and takes you somewhere even more surprising and fascinating" and "her most riveting work yet."

Okay. I rather disagree with all of those analyses. Why? Because I could guess every darn turn this book made. I mean, the whole mysterious transfiguration deal: I felt like going "It's right in front of you, Cassel! OPEN YOUR EYES" because it was just so obvious. Also, as soon as the white cat came into play and he mentioned his best friend Lila I knew what was going to happen. I just pieced it together, and was ahead of the (rather slowly) developing plot. It was a drag. Everything was out there and if this was called a mystery, the mystery part of it would be nonexistent.

  • Plot:

As mentioned above, it's transparent. There was some action, but it didn't attract me all that much. But ignoring those facts, I suppose it was okay. So-so. I didn't get some things about the curse workers and other stuff confused me, so while I guessed the general outline of the plot I was confused by the details that seemed to be in high relief due to lack of anything else to focus on.

The ending should have surprised me but it didn't. I sort of slammed the book shut and stared at it and decided that maybe I just wouldn't read the sequel. But I'll probably read it anyways, just to see if the plot gets better or if there's some "new" revelation.

  • Characters:

I am fond Cassel Sharpe. I thought that he might have hurried up a little with thinking about what was going on around him and pieced his life together a little more, but he didn't, and I thought that he got a little slow when it came to putting the clues that were all around him together. However, I liked his narrative.

Philip was okay. I wish that he had been fleshed out a little more and that the reader could have learned a bit more about the family in general, but there was no such thing.

Barron was also "okay". A little less dynamic than I would have liked.

I could mention a few other people . . . but that would give some of the story away. I really don't want to do that. I'll just say that most of the characters were interesting, but not engrossing.

  • Setting/Other Factors:

One thing that would have added a lot to the story was if the author had added more to what the curse workers are like as a whole. What's the government like? What's the structure of their underground con system? What's the political climate? Legal system? Workers rights were interesting--but it was only mentioned a little. I also wish that she'd said more about Cassel's family; some things relating to the Zacharovs and his family confused me.

Other: I'm a bit feminist, okay? So what I'm going to say here is that there should have been more female con-people. Women are smart, you know! They can con just as well as a man. And while Cassel's mother conned and worked her way through life, it's all money and sex. Cassel's female friend acted as a sort of distraction while he did the con. 

EXCUSE ME, but it seems that the guys are getting out and working and having more of an actual life while a girl's job is to stay home and do domestic things in this book. That frustrates me. Especially because it's written by a female author, and it seems like the society that these conpeople are living in is rather modern in other ways.

Do I recommend this book? Not really. But if you want to read about conmen and crime and curse working, go ahead. Just don't expect a plot that's going to surprise you and make you gasp.

-----The Golden Eagle


Icewolf said...

Huh, that sounds like a dull book. I hate those. Slow to the point...:(

The Golden Eagle said...

Not "slow" exactly, just more like obvious. Everything moved pretty fast, it was that I knew that what was going to happen, was going to happen earlier than the characters did. Sometimes that's helpful for the tension of the plot--but it didn't work here.

John The Bookworm said...

Well, I liked it, but I know what you mean about some parts being obvious. I felt like it was mostly really smart, though, and Curseworking (to me) felt really awesome.

In regards to the author promo: As much as I love Westerfeld and Bray, there is a REASON they are on there. Westerfeld, Bray, Holly Black, and Cassandra Clare are a part of this big writer's clique that has all these bestselling teen authors in it. I know, it sounds bad, but if you see how many of them are quoted on each other's books, and how they tweet about each other and do events constantly (Cassandra Clare and Holly Black are tight - which is part of the reason Clare got into publishing despite her MASSIVE scandal involving plagiarism when she wrote Harry Potter fanfiction. She plagiarized a Catherine Coutler novel.)

Lol. Sorry for the long rant, but as much as I love those authors, there are instances when they are just promoting the work of their friends instead of the work they find and *love* blindly. Oh, and agree with the author to title ratio. The new cover for the paperback Prophecy of the Sisters book is like the opposite, with a HUGE title and tiny author name. I personally like equal fonts since both can make or break a sale, IMO.

The Golden Eagle said...

Yeah. I liked the Curseworking idea, and even the general outline of the plot, it was just the way it was presented.

I was wondering about that! In the "Acknowledgements" (I love reading those things--don't ask me why) I noticed those authors continually on them. I also noticed Sarah Rees Brennan on some of them.

I didn't know that Cassandra Clare plagiarized. It's news to me.

I like it when the font on a cover is of average size--not to big to cover the image and not to small so it's hard to read from a distance.

The Words Crafter said...

I was on the fence about whether I wanted to read this or not. I guess it's not!

Thanks for posting the review!

Misha1989 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Misha1989 said...

I kept hearing about this book everywhere. I actually thought of buying it just to see for myself what's so special about this book. Thankfully I read your review ! The book sounds so ...uninteresting..

Theresa Milstein said...

I looked at this book, but didn't buy it. I was actually eyeing another one of her books. Right now, I'm reading her book Tithe, which I like, so far. It's grittier than my usual YA read.

laughingwolf said...

not my cuppa, thx anyway...

The Golden Eagle said...

The Words Crafter: It looked good to me at first, and I do think that the premise is good--but the rest just isn't as spectacular as it could be.

Misha1989: I got this out of my library, and I'm glad of that. :P

Theresa Milstein: I've heard a lot about Tithe and the rest of that trilogy--despite the performance on this one, I might read it if I came across it in the library or something . . .

Laughingwolf: I love Fantasy most of the time, (there are some really good authors out there) but there are some flops.

Roland D. Yeomans said...


My supervisor must have that talent.

I know what you mean about expecting great things from a book only to be let down. THE PASSAGE was like that for me. TONGUES OF SERPENTS, the latest Napoleonic Dragon epic, from Naomi Novak was like that for me, too.

Our favorite authors can't hit a homerun every time. Sigh. Roland

The Golden Eagle said...

Nope, they can't. I suppose it's rather natural that everything isn't a masterpiece, but it's still disappointing.

I hope your supervisor doesn't work anything too bad on you. :)

John The Bookworm said...

Yep, Sarah Rees Brennan is there, too. As is Steve Berman, who's a small press LGBTQ YA writer who wants to get big.

You didn't know about the Cassie Clare scandal? Google it. You will find enough information. I know that her work is derivative, but at least she doesn't do any plagiarism any more. Still, it makes me think less of her. Especially for fanfic, which you write even MORE for fun than other books. If you plagiarize in fanfic...then yeah. :/