I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

White Cat: Book One of the Curse Workers Trilogy by Holly Black


The first in a trilogy, this novel by the author of The Coldest Girl in Cold Town (yes, I'm still waiting for a sequel) and the Spiderwick Chronicles, concerns the life of Cassel, a teen from a family of "workers", a term that comes from 1920, when those who could wield curses by touch, whether it be luck, death, pain, emotion, memory manipulation, or the rarest of all, transformation, were outlawed and put in camps for years before the law could figure out what to with them.  Nowadays, people wear gloves and cursed stones to protect themselves.  Also, when one practices curse work, there is always "blowback".  In the case of a death worker, he may lose part of a finger.  Cassel's grandfather is a death worker, his elder brother, Phillip can cause physical harm, his brother Barron is a luck worker and law student, and his mother, who is in jail for using her emotion curses and con-artist skills to get money from a wealthy man.  His grandfather, and Phillip, work for the Zacharov mob family, of which there are six in America.  Cassel has no ability, to his chagrin, but he is an expert grifter, with a bookie business going on in his private school.

The book opens with him having a dream that causes him to sleepwalk onto the roof of his dorm.  When he wakes up, he is forced to ask for help to get down, the result being that now he is on suspension from school until he gets checked out by a doctor.  This isn't the first time he has sleepwalked, but it has been a long time.  The last time, he was thirteen and he woke up to find Lila, the daughter of Zacharov, whom he had a crush on, lying dead in front of him and him holding a bloody knife.  His brothers told him to forget it happened and that they'd take care of it.  But he is haunted by it and finds he has to lead a pretend life in order to be "normal" and fit in like everyone else at his school and he is scared to get close to any girl, because he fears he might kill her.

 The dream that led him onto the roof was of a cat, and when he goes to his empty, yet very cluttered home, with his grandfather to clean it, he finds cats in the backyard, and one, in particular, a white one, seems familiar.  He begins to dream of that cat and discovers that it is Lila, who tells him, that he is the only one who can un-curse her.  He also realizes that someone has obviously been altering his memories, since she is alive and he did not kill her.  He must find a transformation worker, but has no idea where to look.  He is a con-man being conned and he has no idea by whom.  He cannot trust his brothers or any of the rest of his family, since they work for the Zacharov family, and Phillip is best friends with Zacharov's nephew. 

With the help of his roommate Sam, an Asian-American student who wants to do special effects work in horror films and drives a hearse that runs on grease, and a girl who believes in the freedom of workers, named Daneca, he is able to keep Lila, the cat safe.  Cassel also takes the precaution of implanting protection stones from memory curses in his leg, just in case.  It turns out, that he has many lost memories that span most of his life, but they are blocked to him.  The people who have been playing with his memory have been using him for a worker ability he did not know he had and has one more mission planned for him. 

He must find a way to change Lila back into a human and stop an assassination.  This is an incredible book that looks at prejudices against workers, who turn to organized crime in order to get work  because of this and how the mind of one young man can be manipulated without his knowing it to do deplorable things, that even though he cannot remember them, he is finding it hard to cope with that knowledge.  With the help of his friends he will try to find his way to once more, con his way out of this situation and save himself and others.  The twist at the end is a real kicker and such a complete surprise it will leave you dying to get your hand on the next book in the series.
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