White Cat by Holly Black

White Cat (The Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black
Published 2010 by Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: Purchased for Kindle.

Genre: YA urban fantasy.

My rating:

Cassel comes from a shady, magical family of con artists and grifters. He doesn’t fit in at home or at school, so he’s used to feeling like an outsider. He’s also used to feeling guilty; he killed his best friend, Lila, years ago.

But when Cassel begins to have strange dreams about a white cat, and people around him are losing their memories, he starts to wonder what really happened to Lila. In his search for answers, he discovers a wicked plot for power that seems certain to succeed. But Cassel has other ideas and a plan to con the conmen. (Goodreads)


I really, really enjoyed White Cat! I already included it in two lists this week (Top Ten Tuesday and Tough Travels) so I thought it would be cool to review it soon. I keep typing the title as Black Cat because of the author’s name – so confusing!

Cassel is the youngest kid in a family of really shady magic workers. His grandfather was an enforcer for the Zacharov crime family (they’re one of the big worker clans in the US), his father is dead, his mother is currently in jail for embezzling millionaires and his two elder brothers run in the same illegal circles. Cassel is the only non-worker in the family. This is enough to set him apart – but not enough to make him fit in at his school, where most of the kids have no magic.

We meet Cassel as he wakes up from sleepwalking on the roof of his dorm – an incident followed by his suspension from school, which means he has to return home for a while. He starts cleaning his abnormally dirty family home with his grandfather and adopts a white cat that looks somewhat familliar…

And that’s ALL I CAN SAY, people! 

About the plot, anyway. I saw several reviews on Goodreads saying that people thought this story was predictable and that they called all the plot twists before they happened. Maybe I’m still slightly brain-dead or else I’m useless at predicting things (though I usually know “who did it” when I’m watching murder mysteries on TV! :D) but I was pretty shocked by some of the happenings! And I liked them a lot!

I think the magic system was pretty cool, too. There are seven (I think) types of workers – those who can influence death, emotion, luck, memory… some things that elude me… and there’s the rarest kind, the transformation workers. There’s also blowback, which is essentially the cost of magic (Cassel’s grandfather, for example, is a death worker and he’s lost several fingers as a result of killing people). I like it when magic has consequences for those who use it, it seems more fair.

Cassel Sharpe was a great character, he’s emotionally vulnerable and basically just wants someone to hug him and love him unconditionally, something that’s been missing from his life. I would cheerfully MURDER most of his family if I had a chance! Selfish asshats. His grandpa’s ok, though. Cassel is a great conman, he runs a betting ring at his school and he’s always looking for angles to take advantage of the situation – this is something he learned from his family and the only way he could cope with being the only non-magical member of the family.

All in all, White Cat was awesome. I wonder what will happen next, the ending was very interesting and had me shaking my head in disbelief. Ugh!


Have you read White Cat? How about the rest of the series?

Do you prefer your magic with a cost or do you like huge explosions and awesome skills with no consequences?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

  • Maraia

    Your review is definitely making me think that I do need to try White Cat again. I just tried to put it on hold at my library, but whoops, I’ve already reached my hold limit. Haha. I didn’t realize this was a series – does it end in a way that you HAVE to read the next book, or is it a complete story?

    I’ve never really thought about magic having a cost, although someone pointed out in a review of Uprooted how different the magic was than the magic in Harry Potter. It’s a good point, but I don’t think I mind either way.

  • Ummm weeelll the main action of the story is complete but there’s one thing that happens where you kind of want to shoot Cassel’s mother in the foot + it really makes me wonder what happens next. It isn’t a cliffhanger plot-wise but is pretty intense.

    Yeah I didn’t mind no cost magic in HP or anything, it’s just that sometimes you get heroes who are just BLASTING everything apart and they don’t even get tired or anything. It happens more in epic fantasy, though.

  • I loved White Cat too! I’m anxiously waiting for my copy of Red Glove to arrive. I quite liked the concept of blowback too, because it makes people think twice before using magic.

    • Yeah, in worlds where magic has no cost, witches or wizards just keep using it (Like in Harry Potter, where Mrs Weasley washes dishes with magic. Not that I’m criticizing HP, mind!) :)

  • Holly Black is one of those authors that I see a lot of good reviews, all the books sounds like something I would like, but somehow I never give them a try.

    I like when magic has a cost, nothing awesome should come for free.

    • I have The Coldest Girl in Coldtown at home because I won it in a giveaway and I didn’t even know it was by the same author until I wrote this post. o_O I have too many books on my tbr so some of them just stay there for AGES.

      Yep, awesomeness should have a price, I agree :)

      • Yeah, sad but true. I recently requested review copy of a book, and then later realized I already grabbed it when it was a Kindle freebie. LOL

  • Couldn’t agree more about Cassel’s family: they are despicable. It’s kind of unusual to read about a male character in YA (or otherwise, actually) who’s as openly vulnerable as Cassel was. His pain over Lila…I loved it. I know that sounds awful but it had a very good emotional pay-off, I thought! This is a series that I need to complete at some point, but I stopped reading when I got annoyed with all the cover changes in the series. I own the whole trilogy and every cover looks different. <— I am shallow!

    • Ugh yes, I saw the cover changes and I have to say they are pretty unappealing. My Kindle doesn’t show covers, which is really annoying sometimes (ANGELFALL!!) but for others, it’s just cool to not have to bother about covers :) But I really want to make my husband read White Cat and now I have a problem because I’m always reading SOMETHING on my Kindle and he doesn’t have his own because he prefers paperbacks so I’ll have to detach myself from the Kindle for a while (THE HORROR).

      And YES, Cassel was so wonderfully open. I really just wanted to hug him and tell him everything would be ok. Poor kid. OHH yes the PAIN! I think I wrote about loving this in books (in another post): seeing the moment a character’s heart breaks. Ahh!

  • I read this, but I didn’t end up liking it… I can’t even remember why, oops.

    • I sometimes forget all about the books I read, too – I’m left only with a vague feeling of whether I enjoyed them or not. I’m sorry you didn’t like this one!

  • Nicole Hewitt

    Somehow I hadn’t even heard of this one, but now I want to go read it. I’ve only read one other Holly Black book and really enjoyed it!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    • Which Holly Black book did you read? I have The Coldest Girl in Coldtown at home, sitting on my shelf, and I still have to read it. But I’ll definitely be continuing with this series, it’s great!

      • Nicole Hewitt

        I read The Darkest Part of the Forest – it was an interesting take on fairies still set in (mostly) the real world.