Wednesday, 16 May 2012

White Cat by Holly Black

A while ago, Holly Black had some sort of promotion which involved giving away the audiobook of White Cat. That was the edition I consumed.

What Cat is a quirky YA fantasy book set in more or less the modern world, but with a class of magic workers (also referred to as curse workers or just workers) who everyone is a little scared of and whose practice of magic is generally outlawed (unless they work for the government).

Cassel comes from a worker family in which he is the only one without any abilities. This causes some tension between him and other members of his family, particularly his older brothers. Really, his brotherly relations aren’t terribly good for other reasons and his family has many issues. For example, his grandfather is a deathworker with death-blackened finger stumps and his mother is in gaol for getting caught conning a rich guy with her emotion magic.

Bereft of magic, Cassel is at a good boarding school, happily conning rich fellow students out of their pocket money. One night, he sleep walks onto the dorm roof for no reason anyone can easily explain. Things go downhill from there.

The story is a journey of discovery for Cassel, learning about how he fits into his family, about his past and about friendship. Of course, it’s book one in a trilogy, so not quite everything is explored as fully as I expect it will be by the end. There aren’t any loose ends, however, and no cliffhanger, which is always nice. There’s enough fodder for the next book but it’s not entirely obvious to me which direction it will go in. I do plan to pick up the second book as soon as possible (which is after I finish one more book because of my book buying restrictions).

My favourite aspect was the lying and conning of Cassel. Even though he wasn’t as good at is as he thought, I appreciated the clever plans and webs of lies. I hope that aspect doesn’t change too much in the later books.

Overall an interesting and enjoyable read/listen. I would recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy or who likes their YA a little bit different. (At least, I don’t think I’ve read anything similar recently.) And for the record, the narrator for the audiobook wasn’t annoying, which is always a bonus.

4 / 5 stars.

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