Review No.14 – White Cat

White Cat – Holly Black

Gollancz, 2010

In prohibition America, magic has been banned for decades. Everyone wears gloves, because all it takes is one touch from a curse worker and you could die. Or forget who you are. Or be transformed. The only non worker in his criminal family, Cassel Sharpe stands out for all the wrong reasons. He committed a murder when he was fourteen and he doesn’t know why. His brothers don’t want to see him, his sister-in-law thinks she can hear angels, and his dreams are haunted by a white cat who bites out his tongue. Suspended from his school after a sleepwalking episode that ended with him almost falling off a roof, Cassel knows the only way to claw back his normal life is to convince everyone he is normal. But how can he do that when he can’t even convince himself?

White Cat takes place in an incredibly detailed alternative world that feels both familiar and strange. Cassel makes for an intriguing anti-hero protagonist, deeply flawed yet still sympathetic, and in fact every character in the book is given a similar level of complexity, spanning the spectrum of moral grey. Like Cassel himself, I wasn’t sure who to trust right up until the end – and possibly afterward, since this is the first book in Black’s Curse Workers series. White Cat is a dark, punchy urban fantasy that had me reading compulsively when I should have been doing other things and wishing I’d thought of this stuff first. I can offer few higher compliments.

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