Review: White Cat by Holly Black

White Cat coverWhite Cat by Holly Black. (Curse Workers, Book 1)

Cassel is cursed. Cursed by the memory of the fourteen year old girl he murdered. Life at school is a constant trial. Life at home even worse. No-one at home is ever going to forget that Cassel is a killer. No-one at home is ever going to forget that he isn’t a magic worker.

Cassel’s family are one of the big five crime families in America. Ever since magic was prohibited in 1929 magic workers have been driven underground and into crime. And while people still need their touch, their curses, their magical killings, their transformations, times have been hard. His granddad has been driven to drink, his mother is in prison and his brothers detest him as the only one of their family who can’t do magic.

But there is a secret at the centre of Cassel’s family and he’s about to inherit it. It’s terrifying and that’s the truth.

The White Cat is a stunning novel of a world changed by magic. In this world only 1% of the population can work magic but they have the power of nightmares.

This was recommended to me by @Vicorva, who has excellent taste in books, and she isn’t wrong with this one either!

This is a 3-4 star read for me. I enjoyed it; I loved the worldbuilding and some of the concepts, and even though I’m not raving about it, it’s a good book! It’d make a very good read for teenagers (it is pushed as a YA) but is a nice one for adults too; it doesn’t present anything majorly challenging but at the same time, is a story about identity and guilt, magic and family…

The story’s interesting, and you’re immediately sucked into the plot; Cassel’s interesting, horrible, conflicted and brilliantly written. The worldbuilding is excellent, and I loved the way magic’s done, particularly for the death-workers! The plot twists are also excellent.

However…I never quite felt the world was a whole. I struggled between the “magic” and the “con” sides of things; I think the danger and the crime element could probably have been played more strongly, at least on Cassel’s side (his mother being in prison was a good indicator of what could happen if things went wrong). I suppose the “magic being outlawed” aspect was the flaw for me; everyone in the book wanted to not be using it because it was dangerous, not because the rest of the world had issues with it. I wonder if the book’s been slightly mis-sold as well; the blurb on the cover is “You’re only a finger-tip away from another world” – which is true, but it’s not a world-walking, another reality thing. It’s a “someone can kill you with a touch”, which is a bit of a different prospect! When I re-read the blurb, I don’t exactly see the book I read…so I’m not sure how much that affected my expectations of what I was going to read, and how much that would help if it was changed.

I’m not sure if I’m going to pick up the next one – I have other things I’d rather read, and I’m not that invested in the world or story that I have to know what happens next. But I’d recommend it to anyone who likes magic and crime, with a dose of nice plot twists and a good characterisation!

This is part of my Discoverability challenge reading.

Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.