Tuesday, May 29, 2012

White Cat, Red Glove, and Black Heart by Holly Black

Summary for White Cat:
The first in a trilogy, this gritty, fast-paced fantasy is rife with the unexpected. 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.

My rating (for all three books): ****
I won't include summaries for the other two books, as they would definitely include spoilers, but let me tell you, all of these books are unique, imaginative, and very intense!

Such world-building! The whole idea of curse-workers (people who have various powers over others that they can use just by touching them with their hands) is awesome. Holly Black really filled this world out and there's a whole culture here. Everyone wears gloves and seeing someone bare-handed is bizarre and frightening.

So, I'll admit that I avoided this series for a while because I envisioned it being all about mobsters (and I was worried it would be mafia-esque and I have personal reasons to despise smooth-talking Italians - thankfully, no Italians in sight :D). I'm glad I finally caved in to all the good reviews I kept seeing and tried it out. As a bonus, all three books are out so there was no need to wait; I read all three back to back.

And I'm going to warn you straight up that it is a bit gritty at times, just like the summary said. There's LOTS of teenage drinking (even though I've never been drunk I'm pretty sure that I now know exactly what it feels like) and plenty of underage sex, though it's all off-page. This series is also very violent. Shootings, dead bodies, blood, nastiness all around.

Wondering what that says about me that I still liked these books with all of that going on.

Truth is, I loved Cassel. Despite everything going on in his family and all the things he's forced to do (sometimes without even knowing it), he's good. He only ever wants to be good and to help those he loves. Makes me sit and philosophize a bit. If I had been raised in Cassel's family, what would I be like. Yes, he runs cons, but wouldn't I if that's all I knew? Holly Black really digs deep into the psychology of what's it's like to be raised in a crime family. The whole setting and atmosphere was fascinating.

And talk about some complex relationships. No surprise really, when you have people in the mix with the ability to change your memories or emotions with a single touch. Overall, I loved all the characters and the complexity. There are also some very funny and sweet characters to lighten the heaviness of the plot (I loved Cassel's grandpa and his friends from school).

Speaking of which, is very clever, with lots of surprising twists and awesome resolutions to major problems. I was surprised that there turned out to be quite a bit of politics in the story, but it all goes along with Holly Black's great world-building. Cassel's world was bigger than just his personal problems. Loved that.

So, if the content doesn't turn you off, I recommend this series for its brilliant storytelling, fully-fleshed original magic system, complex characters, and creativity.

Recommended for fans of magic, contemporary fantasy, and heist books (such as Ally Carter novels).

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