White Cat (Curse Workers #1)
by Holly Black
His mother can work emotions, and uses her talents to manipulate an endless line of sugar daddies into giving her what she wants. His brother Barron works luck, great for gambling and ensuring success in any endeavor. His oldest brother, Phillip, works for the mysterious Zacharov family as hired muscle. His grandfather, now retired, was a master death worker in his day. But Cassel is alone in this family of curse workers. The only magic he can “work” is the cons he pulls on his classmates at his boarding school, but Cassel’s got a secret: three years ago, he murdered a girl. When he’s sent home from school because he was caught fooling around on the roof of his dorm, Cassel quickly gets wrapped up in his family’s activities. Cursing is illegal, so those who practice it work for powerful mafia-like groups, and it seems like his brothers are plotting something spectacular. The more Cassel learns about the mysterious plans of the curse workers, the more tricks he has to exercise to keep himself and his friends safe.
I really, really liked the idea of the curseworkers. The ability to curse is genetic, and the reaction of society is fear, so much so that there are people who want to make testing for the ability to curse a government requirement. Cursing’s also interesting because every time a curse is cast, the worker experiences ‘blowback’ – a reaction to the curse. If you’re a death worker, part of your own body dies. If you specialize in destroying memories, your own mind is damaged. A sacrifice is involved every time you work a curse. The way this affects the workers and the people who live with them was much more interesting than the ‘drama’ of the main story.
Cassel, unfortunately, isn’t an interesting narrator. He’s constantly telling readers that he’s not to be trusted because he’s a con man, and that he views people as marks. He’s absolutely convinced of his own cleverness. He does have a few friends, but they rarely appear, and he spends most of his time hallucinating, dreaming or sulking. I mean, I guess that’s accurate for a teenage boy, but it really slows the book down.
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