Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: White Cat by Holly Black

Curse Workers, Book 1

Tags: YA, urban fantasy, magic, organized crime


Cassel Sharpe is the only non-worker in a family of infamous magical workers who work for the infamous Zacharov crime family. Before, his main concerns were navigating high school and trying to get over the fact that he killed his best friend, Lila Zacharov, several years earlier. Now, however, a series of increasingly scary events—sleepwalking, revelations about his brothers, secrets of what really happened to Lila—draw Cassel deeper into the world of organized crime, where workers can do illegal magic on someone else with just one touch of their hand.


No pun intended, but I curse myself for not reading this book earlier because DANG was it good. WHITE CAT is a genius combination of memorable protagonist, brilliant world-building, and effortless narration.

Holly Black manages to paint for readers an alternate world in which magic is mixed with organized crime, all without sacrificing an action-filled, fast-paced plot. WHITE CAT is set in the affluent suburbs of New Jersey, and the Sharpe family’s secrets and the Zacharovs’ criminal doings clash deliciously with its idyllic setting.

While the plot of WHITE CAT is not expansive, it is fast-moving and fascinating enough to make it an unputdownable read. Occasionally I wanted more details about how working for a crime family works, but the details of curse-working are described thoroughly, and anyway, I think that the main focus of WHITE CAT is on the complexities of family loyalty. Cassel and his two older brothers share a complicated relationship with trust issues. What happens when one can’t trust one’s family?

As far as male protagonists go, Cassel is an enjoyable one. Sometimes male protagonists in contemporary YA rub me the wrong way with either their desperate attempt at coolness or their disturbingly played apathy. Cassel is neither type. Rather, Cassel is a survivor: he desires normalcy in his life, but when that inevitably cannot occur, he makes the best of his situations.

WHITE CAT is a highly engaging quality read by one of YA’s most talented speculative fiction writers. It will appeal to readers of both contemporary and speculative fiction. Don’t miss it!

Cover discussion: This cover is so bloody good. I love the high-contrast lighting and the black-white-red scheme. That white cat upon the black leather stinks of indulgent deliciousness.

Margaret K. McElderry / Feb. 8, 2011 / Paperback (reprint) / 310pp. / $8.99

Sent for review by publisher.


  1. I really liked this one, too! And I have RED GLOVE sitting on my shelf...gonna have to read that one soon. Nice review!
    Happy Reading!
    Mary @ Book Swarm

  2. A few things:

    1) Haven't been around in a while, and I LOVE the new look :)
    2) I love that you used the word 'bloody' - it's one of my favorite embellishments (although I am not British, much to my disappointment).
    3)Adore this review. I won a copy of this from the awesome Midnyte Reader, but have yet to read due the huge TBR pile - once I get through the 'blog tour must reads', this one is going to the top after reading this. Thanks, Steph!

  3. Thanks for the review! I have this sitting at the top of a pile of books. So this is the push I needed to get started on this!

  4. I only read White Cat a couple months ago and felt the same way, like I should have read the novel sooner! It was a good thing I didn't have to wait to read the second novel at the time but now I have to anxiously wait for the third book to see how it will all go down in the end. It's definitely a favourite of mine by Holly Black!

  5. I loved White Cat! For whatever reason I was so hesitant to pick it up at the library, but I'm so glad I did! :)

    And what you said about the cover pretty much took the words out of my head, although I do prefer the hardcover's cover.

  6. Better late than never, yes? And now you don't have to wait an entire year for the sequel, like I did! So glad you enjoyed this one, Steph!

  7. Yes, White Cat (and the sequel, Red Glove) are fantastic! Why has no one else mixed magic with the mafia? Or if they have, why haven't I heard about it?

    If you like audiobooks, White Cat is read by Jesse Eisenberg. I have a big nerdy crush on him, and I really enjoyed him as the voice of Cassel.

  8. Ahhhh so glad you finally read it! I hope my evangelizing at Jeri Smith-Ready's signing helped convince you to pick it up! The world-building is awesome, and I love Cassel as an MC. And I just read Red Glove and lovedddd it. It's the perfect second/middle book!


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