Posted by Izzy G. on Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.
Holly Black has created a gripping tale of mobsters and dark magic where a single touch can bring love — or death — and your dreams might be more real than your memories.
Details: White Cat by Holly Black, 310 pages, 3.97 stars
Why I Picked This Up: I didn't want to at first simply because I didn't like the cover. It didn't seem like a very good one (I still don't really like it), and the first review I'd read of it was less than stellar. However, the next handful I came across all had very enthusiastic things to say about it, so I thought it couldn't be that bad and decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did!
Characters: I found Cassel to be a fascinating character. His whole family was one of conmen, each curse working to get what they want. His mother, for example, can make people feel emotions, and when he was younger, instead of traditional punishments like getting grounded, she would make him feel intense guilt or sadness. However, Cassel doesn't have any of those gifts and so he's the only "normal" one - but by being normal, he's really completely different from all his other family members.
Still, Cassel is good at conning people and even ran a gambling system at his school for quite a decent profit. What I like most about him is that he's a fantastic male POV. He isn't like a lot of male characters dominating YA - he doesn't fall into one of three stereotypes (the bad boy with a heart of gold, the sweet boy-next-door, or the tortured loner), and is instead his own personality.
Better yet, Cassel is funny. He makes all these witty remarks as you read that can make you smile, but it doesn't distract you from the more serious content of White Cat. His voice was well done, and I enjoyed reading it.
Plot: This book had a tight, well-crafted plot that was twistier than a snake greased with french fries on a mountain composed of butter sticks. (I dare you to come up with a better simile. No, seriously. Put it in the comments!) It had me guessing at every turn, but the results surprised me nearly every time.
I loved the story background, too. Holly Black has proved her originality previously, like in her Spiderwick Chronicles (which I adored as a kid), but the lore of this world still startled me with how unique it was. Someone has mentioned to me that the book is actually a retelling of a lesser-known fairy tale called "The White Cat", although I would suggest you read it after the book to avoid getting spoilers. Even then, this is still an extremely creative retelling; I hadn't even noticed the fairy tale elements when I first read it.
The only thing I didn't really like was how the pacing felt a bit wrong, which threw me off from time to time.
Cover: I really dislike this cover. It actually repelled me from the book in the beginning. I don't like how the model's eyes are covered with that random red smoke, and both fonts don't seem to work very well with the story. The cursive-y one at the top seems to suggest this is a very light-hearted story, and the one at the bottom looks like it belongs on a scroll of papyrus. I also never really liked it when the author's name was a million times bigger than the title.
First Line: I wake up barefoot, standing on cold slate tiles.
Overall: Cassel was an excellent male character, with a POV that doesn't betray the fact that the author is female at all. The plot is tight and well-crafted, with plenty of twists to make you turning pages. Although the pacing seemed to be off, this was a fantastic book I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good fantasy.
Plot - 5/5
Characters - 5/5
Writing - 3/5
Impact - 3/5
Inability to put it down - 4/5
Overall - 80% = A-