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White Cat - The Curse Workers Book Review Summary

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of White Cat - The Curse Workers

Cassel, the only normal member of a curse worker family, attempts to discover what happened years ago when he remembers killing his friend. Cassel comes from a family of curse workers- people with strange abilities that let them control other's emotions, break their bones, and even kill them. All with just a touch. Of course, curse working is illegal, and Cassel's family has deep ties with the local crime syndicate. Cassel though, is relatively normal. He's just your average con artist, with no real special abilities. Years ago his family shipped him off to a posh boarding school, after he murdered his best friend (and the daughter of the man who runs the crime ring) Lila. Ever since then he's done his best to fit in with his rich classmates and never reveal his family history. Recently, however, that's been a little more difficult. Cassel's been having nightmares, sleepwalking, and finds himself haunted by a white cat that he almost seems to recognize. At the same time, his brothers (Richard and Barron) have started acting strange, and Cassel is worried that they might be manipulating him. All of this is tied into some kind of plot involving Lila's father. Cassel is going to have to find out what really happened all those years ago, and it might end up taking the biggest con of his life.
Best part of story, including ending: The world building is actually very excellent. The concept of a sort of magic mafia is well explained, and the societal fallout is also explored- it's taboo to go without gloves, for instance, because curse workers work through touch. That being said, some of the plot elements are somewhat lacking. There's a few twists near the end, and they're obviously supposed to be very shocking and surprising, but the average reader can figure just about all of them out within the first couple of chapters. The character development is also sort of sporadic- background characters like Cassel's grandfather and his roommate at school, Sam, get fairly significant development and personalities. Meanwhile, more immediate characters like Cassel's mom and brothers are sort of flat and unexplored. The cons described in the book are also really strangely uninteresting. Given character reactions, we're supposed to be really impressed by Cassel's manipulation abilities, but the action describing them is sort of clunky and boring. It's a fun enough read, but there are points that are just very undeveloped, and the book suffers for it.

Best scene in story: There's a scene in which Cassel begins to fear that someone's been tampering with his memories. He goes and buys some charms designed to prevent that. Then he takes them, cuts a large gash on his leg, and literally shoves the charms (they're about the size of pebbles, but still) under his skin. It's very well described, and we get a really good look at Cassel's state of mind at this point. He is freaking out, and really panicking about the idea that someone might have worked him, and this scene really captures that fear.

Opinion about the main character: Cassel is sort of a standard teen lit protagonist. His first person narrative isn't particularly unique or anything. He's interesting enough to read about, and the audience doesn't necessarily hate him or anything, but he's kind of a bland good guy character. There's this element where he considers himself to be a bad person, and sort of tries to convince the audience that he's a "bad guy." This starts to get kind of grating though, since it's really obvious to the reader that he's a typical hero character. Again, not awful to read, and you can believe him easily enough while you're reading, but there isn't very much setting him apart.

The review of this Book prepared by Rachel a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar
Cassel comes from a family of curse workers. Cassel's grandpa is a hired killer, his mom changes others emotions to con them out of cash, and his brother can break someone's leg just by touching them. All of them have their ties to the local crime syndicate, which is comprised of nothing but curse workers- after all, curse working itself is a criminal offense, and most workers figure they might as well get paid. Cassel, though, is your everyday con artist, without any magical abilities of any kind. However, he's haunted by the fuzzy memory of murdering his friend Lila a few years ago, after which his family shipped him off to a posh boarding school. Ever since, he's devoted most of his energy to convincing his rich classmates- and his roommate, Sam- that he's normal- and he'd started to like playing it straight. But that's been getting harder recently, what with his sleepwalking, strange dreams, and the presence of a mysterious white cat that's been stalking him. Cassel's afraid he's been going crazy, but the shady behavior of his family has him beginning to suspect that there may be more going on than he thought. Cassel's going to have to pull more than a few cons to find out what really happened all those years ago, and to stop the people who are really responsible for what happened to Lila. Best part of story, including ending: The concept was executed really well- the idea of organized crime families having magic powers is interesting, and Holly Black managed to work the whole concept together very well. The mafia itself is delightfully foreboding, and the various powers and effects on society are really interesting- for instance, everyone wears gloves, because bare skin touching has become such a taboo. That being said, the characters are somewhat hit or miss- Cassel's roommate, Sam, and his grandfather, are both extremely interesting and fully formed. His brothers, mother, and Lila, however, are somewhat flat- in fact, most of the antagonists are fairly standard "evil" without a whole lot of motivation pushing them along. There's also a romantic subplot which isn't particularly interesting to read about.

Best scene in story: There's a scene where Cassel is worried that someone might have been working him, so he buys some charms- a few small pebbles that are made to prevent someone from being worked- and he sews them under the skin of his calf. It's described down to the most nauseating detail, and it really emphasizes the terror Cassel's feeling at that point- and it also casts some very real doubt onto his mental state.

Opinion about the main character: Cassel is a bit too generically nice- he runs some cons, and maybe does a couple of questionable things, but he never does anything particularly bad, and as a character that's a con artist coming from a criminal background, I sort of wish that he'd be a little more interesting. He claims to be a bad person at various points, and the narrative seems to set him up as something of an antihero, but he really doesn't do that much to make the readers question his morality. He's nice, and easy to read, and you do want him to succeed and figure out what's been going on, but he is something of a standard hero.

The review of this Book prepared by A a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar





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Chapter Analysis of White Cat - The Curse Workers

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book Descript. of chases or violence 30%planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 50%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 10%Descript. of society, phenomena (tech), places 10% Tone of book    -   cynical or dry-wit FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION?    -   fantasy story on current Earth Coming of age    -   Yes Youngster becomes    -   a powerful magician Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book

Main Character

Identity:    -   Male Profession/status:    -   thief/con artist Age:    -   a teen If magical mental powers:    -   can change shapes

Setting

Earth setting:    -   current (early 21st century) Takes place on Earth?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   generic/vague references to death/punishment scientific jargon? (SF only)    -   none/very little science jargon needed How much dialogue?    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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