a white cat and a con

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 |

Oh twitterverse, I want to say ‘thank you.’ I’d never read a Holly Black book before picking up White Cat. I knew vaguely that she had written some ‘modern faerie tales,’ but I didn’t feel any urgency to find those titles. Then White Cat was released. The twittering world exploded, blog reviews went up all over the place, and someone said the magic words: ‘best book of the year.’


Just like that, my antennae went up. Well, it's quite a claim. I'll give anything proclaimed 'best of the year' a try, as long as I trust the speaker. But even if a book sparks my interest, I won’t necessarily go out and buy it. If that were the case, I’d be buried under a mountain of books (literally), and also quite broke. So instead I checked the local library system and found a copy. Here’s my shout-out to the Arlington Library System! The book was in my possession within the week.


Cassel comes from a family of curse workers -- people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail -- he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

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. 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.


My undiluted reaction: fan-freaking-tabulous. Just the sort of con caper that makes my insides liquefy and my brain start working in overdrive. If it were translated immediately into film-form, it would rank right up there with Ocean’s 11, The Italian Job, and Brothers Bloom. Those are, by the way, some of my favorite films. I get a rush from the cleverness, the con, and the bit-by-bit reveal. It’s not for everyone, but it’s for me. Not even kidding. I don’t even like mystery as a genre; I like people getting played, and the story itself getting the best of me until the last second.


I also love a twist, an unexpected conclusion and a clever switch. I don’t want to explain more, because one of this book’s main strengths is its inscrutability and the unraveling thereof. Cassel and company were a great cast of characters, though not all are equal or equally interesting. But each person fits in the novel, and I didn’t feel like anyone was there as a placeholder or simply for a future set-up. I guess I’m just trying to say that it’s smooth, seamless, and beautiful. Here’s hoping there are many more adventures, cons and magic-filled moments in their future.


Recommended for: adventurers, daredevils, and those who want to join the club (or at least read about it), appreciators of clever stories, dark magic and dark times, and anyone in the mood for sharp, brilliant entertainment at its best and finest.


This book counts for the Once Upon a Time IV challenge.

49 comments:

carolsnotebook said...

I'm sure I have this one somewhere on the shelf. You've inspired me to pull it down, at least move it a little closer to the top of the pile.

Rhiannon Hart said...

I can't work out whether this one is YA or not. How old is the protag? I've got a copy at home but haven't gotten round to, you know, opening it up and finding out for myself!

celi.a said...

Rhiannon: It's meant to be YA, but the protagonist is 18, and there are definitely some darker themes...so I'd say it's best suited for older teens. I think you'll like it a lot!

Memory said...

You've pushed me over the edge. I just requested this one from my library. I love anything to do with cons and tricky dealings.

Rhiannon Hart said...

18! Well there you go. In Australia they're promoting this as adult, not YA. Australian pub houses can be daft sometimes.

Jenny said...

I love cons! I've just been watching this British show, Hustle, which is all about con men (though not curses). I've never read Holly Black before, but this looks like a good place to start!

Peaceful Reader said...

What a review! I need to put this on my list...I'm all tingly with excitement!

Carrie K. said...

I just finished listening to this on audio today - I really enjoyed it, too. It was my first Holly Black book, too - other than the Spiderwick Chronicles, which she cowrote and I read aloud to my kids.

Jessica @ Confessions of a Bookaholic said...

Loved the review. I've wanted this book for awhile. You gave a lot of good info. :)

Okapi said...

Awesome review! I love cons! This book sounds really interesting (I want to join the club! :) )

Darlyn said...

whoa..I have Tithe on my shelf and have not read it yet. This one sounds like a very interesting faery book!

Sas (Tea Mouse) said...

Fan-freaking-tabulous you say? It must be good then! I guess I'll have to get me a copy, though I've never read anything else by Holly Black before. :)

A Life Bound By Books said...

Great review and thanks so much for the contest! I really want to read this book and after checking out your review, I think I want to read it even more so!

Thanks again,
-Lisa
alifeboundbybooks

Rica Eat World said...

great review! I'm very eager to read this!

Cass said...

I've seen the trailer, and it really got my heart pumping! This looks like an amazing title, and I'd love to read it. I don't believe I've ever read a book quite like this before.

Also, @Rhiannon Hart, us Australians and our backward ways...:P

Cheryl F. {The Lucky Ladybug} said...

I've never read a Holly Black book, but I'd love to! White Cat sounds seriously good :)

Kristen M. said...

I liked Holly's story in the Half-Minute Horrors book and of course the Spiderwick book. I've been meaning to explore her more but, of course, I think that about more authors than I can possibly keep up with!

sRy_ said...

best book of the 2009?..interesting, and dark themes sounds great :)

Baggins said...

Now I'm even more desperate to read this!

Ashley said...

Hmmm. I don't think I was terribly interested in this book before, but I think I need to read it now. Great review. (And I loved Oceans 11. It's my BF's most favorite movie and we watch it together periodically.)

FionaChan said...

I've seen the book cover everywhere, but I was too lazy to read the description :x
Anyway, wow this book sounds REALLY exciting!

Mrs. DeRaps said...

I love an adventure and kinda need one. I really want to read this book! Thanks for the review.

Miss Bookiverse said...

I'm really curious about this. I've read Hollys other 3 books and I liked one of them a lot, the other 2 were just okay. I really want to know what this one is like!

My name is Patricia said...

I have heard nothing but good things about this book. I can not wait to get my hands on this. I love books that are able to keep the thrill up. On my TBR list!

BleuMoon said...

Okay now I am intrigued - checking out my library system to find this one too - but your review is so good I may go out and buy it tonight. It is everything I like for a book! Thanks for the great review!

bleumoonspirit@gmail.com

Aik said...

This book sounds interesting! Thanks for your thoughtful review!

Liz. R said...

Ooh, I've heard a lot of good things about White Cat! This review has made me add it to my wishlist though. It's funny because they're promoting it as adult in the UK too. It's not in the YA section. Strange.

Anonymous said...

I love Holly Black!

Hilary St. Laurent said...

I'm definatley intrigued, I don't think I've ever read anything by Holly Black either. But with the way you described it... I might have to give this book a try! Thanks!!

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

This is one I have had my eye on.

Dovile said...

I'd like to read this, as I like books with many twists, and unexpected plot developments.

Zombie Girrrl said...

Color me intrigued! Great review, I love your untempered fangirlliness!

Ammietia (a girl you once knew) said...

All the reviews this book has gotten, and simply the synopsis, have made me really want this book, but I'll probably have to wait till it's in paperback form.

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

wow, sounds like this one is a keeper!! i'm so glad it lives up to the expectations :)

Rae (In The Forest) said...

I am seriously dying to read this book!

Sharli said...

I love the sound of this book! It's a very original plot for a YA novel.
I'm dying to read it :D

dor said...

Wow....this is good. You have my interest and soon, I will be reading this baby. Thanks.

dorcontest at gmail dot com

Ruth (Book Focus) said...

Ooooooh that sounds awesome. I like the comparison to those films - gives a really good idea of what you mean. :) I have heard of this book a bit, but this has definitely piqued my interest! Will need to go get me this book, apparently. :)

angelatarantula said...

really great review. sounds so different from normal YA books!

angela z

Book Genie said...

I absolutely LOVE Ocean's 11!!! That might have been the final straw...I now NEED to read this book!! You have inspired me!!! Thank you!!! :)

Bethany said...

Well, I haven't heard much about this book, but you're review makes it sound awesome. I don't usually read books like this, but I'm certainly going to start with this one.

Jasindo said...

When I first started reading this book, I was so disappointed because it wasn't as good as I had hoped. However, by the time I got to the last page, I was itching to get the next book in my hands!

Oh, April 5th of 2011, when will you come?

Ashley said...

Thanks for this review... I liked all the appeal factors you included. I've (obviously) heard a lot about this one, but your review is one of the first to pique my interest.

Ekta said...

Great review! Probably the best review of this book I've read :D White Cat sounds great. Holly Black seems to have created a wonderfully interesting world.

librarypat said...

Everything I have read about this book has been great. Wouldn't expect anything less fro Holly Black. Love the cover.
Yours is the best review I have read so far.

librarypat AT comcast DOT net

Adelina said...

Great review. I really want to read White Cat. It sounds like an awesome and refreshing idea.

misha1989 said...

Great review! It sounds different and interesting.

Chase92 said...

Sounds like a nice read. I like the cover too!

Linda Henderson said...

I've heard about this book but have never had the chance to read it. Thank you for the informative review. I will definitely have to get a copy.

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