Book Review: White Cat (Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black

White Cat - Holly Black

This book has been on my TBR list since early this year and I decided to finally crack it open for my Tackle Your TBR Pile Read-a-thon. Lots of people have been going on and on about how great this book is and the series as a whole. In fact, many of my trusted book bloggers seem to like White Cat a lot, but after reading it I honestly don’t see what all the hype is about.

Conceptually, White Cat was very promising. ‘Curse Worker’ sounds so sinister and magical at the same time and truthfully, I think that we can never have enough books about magic so I welcomed the concept with open arms. But I guess when it comes to building the principles around the concept itself Holly Black falls short. I personally think it’s because of the lack of details and I for one am hungry about the good nitty-gritty. The idea of curse working was very casually served to the readers, the first few chapters were smattered with vague details about the crime families and the government’s stand on ‘workers’ and ‘working’ but the execution itself of this technique was average at best. I’ve read novels before that doesn’t necessarily give detailed lists, graphs, or lengthy explanations about the concepts/ideas involved but dishes them out slowly throughout the story, and they worked fine for me, better actually since the author challenges the reader to read through the lines and figure out all things unsaid, and I live for those moments, trust me. But this one was just confusing and that in itself is a huge buzzkill. It felt suspiciously like the author obscuring the obvious behind a curtain of opaque vagueness just to make it feel like there’s something mysterious about the whole thing when in truth, there’s really not.

When it comes to the characters, I don’t really have much to say except that I was thoroughly bored. Cassel’s voice was distinctly male, yes, but there was nothing special about him really. In fact, I might have to say that he’s a bit overdramatic at times even considering the circumstances. Lila was projected as an interesting character because that’s how Cassel feels about her, but I am not enchanted by her at all. She did nothing surprising in my opinion and in fact, she ended up being too predictable. Plus, there’s zero chemistry between her and Cassel, I’d probably rather ship him with Daneca. The most interesting characters in this book for me were Maura and Granddad, Maura because in my mind’s eye she looks like the woman who played Jack Nicholson’s wife in The Shining, and Granddad because he reminds me a liiitttle bit of Uncle Eddie from [b:Heist Society|6574102|Heist Society (Heist Society, #1)|Ally Carter||6767235]. The villains at least, were well crafted. I like the fact that Philip and Barron were conning their own brother and Anton was believably psychotic. I expected a whole lot from Zacharov than what I got, though. I mean, isn’t he supposed to be head of a crime family? His character felt a little too soft for my liking. That was one of the big disappointments I got out of this book.

Plotwise, it was entirely too predictable. I immediately knew who the White Cat was and I guessed rather early that Cassel was really a worker and what kind of work he can do. About the only thing I didn’t guess was what Cassel’s mom would do in the end, and honestly? Bad parenting. The mafia-ish vibe wasn’t used to it’s full potential and the cons aren’t really impressive if you think about it. I liked the concept of the blowback, though. Lots of magic books tell us about limitless power with very slight physical consequences, but in Cassel’s world, you get your karma immediately, and light would be the last word to describe it. The blowback definitely made things more interesting and it set even Cassel and his unusual abilities on the same ground with other workers because it’s a mutual vulnerability they all share.

Despite the myriad of shortcomings I listed, White Cat was still an enjoyable read. Some parts were slow but most were action-packed and I can’t help but notice that this was the case in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown as well. Holly Black thrives when she’s world-building and writing the ass-kicking scenes, and for the most part it makes up for her more-or-less average skill in plot-weaving and characterization. I’m a bit disappointed though that White Cat was not as good as I thought it would be, but I have to admit that it wasn’t half bad either. I most probably won’t read the other books in the series, but I would still recommend it to everyone who loves urban fantasy and who enjoys reading in the male character’s POV. Three coconuts!