starlady: (impending)
[personal profile] starlady
Black, Holly. White Cat. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010.

So I heard Holly Black talk about the genesis of this book and this series, The Curse-Workers, in her Guest of Honor speech at Sirens and, as well as being utterly hilarious, her speech definitely made me glad that I had this book waiting for me at home in my room. (Yeah, you don't even want to know how many books I have here in my room.) And it's good. 

In brief, a certain segment of the population is born with the ability to work curses on others via their hands--but each worker can only work one type of curse, and each curse creates blowback directly in the worker, so that death-workers, for example, are always liable to lose fingers. To make things even more complicated, Prohibition outlawed curse-working in the States, and of course, to deal with that, workers have formed organized crime families.

Cassel Sharpe thinks he has less to do with this than someone who's the grandson of a death worker for a family might expect, given that he's the only non-worker in his family and he's trying to go straight after accidentally killing his best friend Lila, the crime boss's daughter, three years ago: attending a fancy prep school in central Jersey, making tuition by running the school betting ring, always playing the angles and trying not to. But when Cassel wakes up on the school roof, having sleepwalked out of his room, and is summarily suspended from school on suspicion of having been worked, things in his life start to reassemble themselves into a darker, more disturbing picture.

Ah, Holly Black, I love how she writes about New Jersey, particularly south and central Jersey this time, and how she gets it right--rarely has my New Jersey tag been more apt. She also gets right, I think, the reality and the ideology of organized criminals, who talk about family in a vain effort to curtail the human acquisitive instinct. Which is another way of saying, the family stuff is all bullshit; it's all about the money, and the power, and the violence required to attain both, as Cassel eventually learns. Paging the Godfather. *obligatory moment to recall that scene in the second movie in Havana, where Michael kisses Fredo--you can say all you want about the christening scene at the end of the first movie, but that scene with the fraternal kiss in Havana is the pinnacle of the trilogy for me*

ANYway, the book is excellent--it is very, very twisty and the plot is absolutely addictive. It is also, less obviously, based on the literary fairy tale "The White Cat", which if you've heard the story adds another layer to the book. I want the next one, Red Glove, immediately.

Postscript: Cassel is ambiguously brown; he doesn't know the truth of his own family's origins. 
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