Monday, April 4, 2011

Book Review: White Cat

Holly Black's White Cat is a story of cons within cons, of criminals and magic. Cassel Sharpe, the only non-curse worker in a family of workers, opens the book by sleepwalking out onto the roof of his dorm, which gets him suspended from school until he can prove he won't be doing it again. For any normal kid, this wouldn't be a big deal. But for Cassel, it means going back to living with his two older brothers-- one who is a luck worker and the other a physical worker-- Barron and Phillip, and their grandfather, who used to be a death worker. Cassel would probably protest being the only non-CRIMINAL in a family of mobsters and con-artists, but he's not. When he was fourteen, he stabbed and killed the girl he loved, Lila, who also happened to be the daughter of a very powerful mobster. Barron and Phillip helped hide the body, but Cassel's felt guilty ever since. But spending time at home, Cassel starts to suspect something within the Sharpe family is amiss. His brothers are keeping secrets from him, he's losing things, and a mysterious white cat in his dreams is desperately trying to tell him something. Cassel just might be the mark in a con he wasn't even aware of.

The first thing that drew me to White Cat was the premise. I mean, come on. MOBSTERS? Who work with MAGIC? Hells yeah. And in that aspect, I wasn't disappointed. White Cat fills in all the twists and turns of a con, and it's probably what drew me deeper and deeper into reading. The further you read, the more you want to keep reading, because pieces pop up and you want to desperately put them together. The only problem with this, I found, is that was I trying to over-read it. I spent most of the book looking for the con within the con within the con. Turns out there was only a con within a con. It was a bit of a let-down, but I can chock that up to my own overthinking.

Let's talk about Cassel, because as well as being a great main character, I had a few problems with him. As well as being the only non-worker in a family of workers, he also seems to be the most sensitive. He's caring and kind and that's lovely, but I couldn't help but wonder why he wasn't a little bit tougher around the edges. It wouldn't have bothered me, but everyone (with the exception of his two friends from school) were rough around the edges from either living a life of crime or growing up around it. There were some times where the sensitivity annoyed the crap out of me, and I just wanted Cassel to hit back (both literally and figuratively.) Later in the book, when the reason for a lot of his guilt is revealed to be a con (trying to be vague for the sake of those who don't want spoilers!) he still feels guilty about it, almost perhaps more so than in the beginning, which made little sense to me.

Again, this is probably because in a book of cons and magic, I expected a tougher character. This is probably why I had a main problem with the brothers, Barron and Phillip. (Mostly Phillip) I really sympathized with them, for when they showed those rare "brotherly" moments for Cassel. Even the bad things they did didn't faze me, because going into this book I knew they were criminals. Which meant they did bad things. And I was cool with that, as long as their characters justified their actions. And in my opinion, for the most part (and by that I mean Phillip), they did. I guess I feel like Phillip got the short end of the stick by the end.

White Cat's strength lies in its plot, with twists and turns and slowly building tension. I also really enjoyed Holly Black's writing style in this book. She had many short passages, which were sometimes no more than a paragraph. I was skeptical of these short passages at first, but they brought a sense of time passing and reality to the book that I really enjoyed. Her writing is crisp and straight-forward, which is great for a first person narrator.

As much as I complained about the three Sharpe brothers, I thoroughly enjoyed White Cat, and will definitely be picking up her sequel, Red Glove. If you're a reader that loves twists and turns, pick up White Cat. It certainly had enough tension to keep me reading way past when I should have put it down last night.

Final Verdict: 3/5 Stars.

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