So, I really liked Holly Black's faerie stories, and I was hoping White Cat would be along those lines. You know, kind of dark, twisty, surreal, and glamorous all at the same time. Well, this isn't quite like the faerie books were, but it's not bad, either. The story is about Cassel Sharpe, the only non-gifted member of a family of curse workers. Black integrates curse workers into our world as if they've always been there, as a semi-functioning part of society--only semi-functioning because curse work was been illegal since about the time of the Prohibition. Consequently, everyone, worker or not, wears gloves of some variety to prevent the working of curses (laying a curse requires touching someone with your hand) and many people wear charms designed to prevent curses from taking effect. Because working is illegal, anyone who wants to work (in the US, at least) typically ends up working for mafia-like families who organize crime networks of workers. Cassel's family is involved with the Zacharov family, though since Cassel doesn't have working abilities, he himself is left out of everything to do with workers and instead tries to make himself as normal as possible at his boarding school.
Like I said, Cassel doesn't have working abilities, but he has a secret of his own: he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago, and his family helped cover it up. Now, Cassel is having weird dreams of a white cat and is sleepwalking, leading to his suspension from his upper-class boarding school. All he really wants to do is stop sleepwalking so he can go back, but while he's trying to figure out what's going on with him, this white cat (featured in his dreams) shows up in his life, and he begins to suspect that he has amnesia of a sort. Kind of a disappointing plot device, amnesia, but it worked. There were a few things that were blatantly obvious from the very beginning, and I was actually embarrassed for Cassel that he didn't figure them out sooner. But there were still a lot of great twists, which it's hard to talk about without revealing stuff, so just take my word that they were pretty good, though not nearly as enthralling in general as I found Tithe and its companions to be. I was also hoping this would be along the lines of Tithe in that it could be read alone, but that's not really the case; where Valiant and Ironside were companion-books to Tithe, the Curse Workers books are actual sequels.
While the writing was good and the characterization was decent, one thing that did seem evident was a lack of consequences for the characters' actions. Nothing seemed to have blowback except the curses themselves, and even that was relatively minor. In the end, everything was just peachy keen, and no one really regretted...well, anything. It seems like in a story where there were some morbid revelations, there should have been more consequences, at least on a psychological level. Now, there was one kind-of consequence at the end, but I'm not really sure it can even be called that because it looks like it will be resolved in the other books. All I'll say about that is:
Anyway, this was a pretty good book, but I feel like it could have been deeper and consequently better. Overall, I did like it, but not as much as I was hoping to.
2.5-3 out of 5 stars.