Wednesday, July 28, 2010

white cat by holly black has the twisted tale of an inherited secret at its centre

There's something to be said for the recent fascination with all things supernatural -- at least it's got young people reading again. The upsurge in what is defined as Young Adult fiction has included, unfortunately, any number of vampires and werewolves (Meyers has got a lot to answer for), but there's also been a corresponding increase in new forms of YA fantasy.
Holly Black's White Cat falls in to this category. The first in the Curse Workers series, Black introduces readers to a world where some people – generally not considered to be the "best type" of people – can make "curses" work.
It runs in families, usually, and although numbers are relatively small, there's a disproportionate number of them in jail or working for organised crime.
Which is what has happened to Cassel – his mother’s in jail, his brothers work for the local crime boss, and he's pretty sure he killed a girl when he was just a kid – well, even younger than he is now.
On top of those problems, Cassel doesn't have any magic. He's completely unable to curse anyone or anything, or at least that’s what he thinks.
White Cat is a coming of age tale, but despite its wrapping of fantasy and magic, it's actually quite gritty. Any modern day kid whose family works for the mob or the drug lord down the street would identify with Cassel's issues.
And the twisted tale of an inherited secret at the centre of Cassel's family is even nastier. In fact, White Cat is as much about losing trust in one's family, betrayal and the greed of human beings, as it about growing up.
Still, it's not all doom and gloom. Black writes with a light touch – there's no staring off into the distance and brooding, nor is there endless moaning about teen angst. Cassel isn't perfect, but he has a sense of humour and friends who like him, and eventually it – sort of – turns out alright in the end.
Black is clearly a young author to watch – it will be interesting to see what she comes up with in the next book of the series.

White Cat by Holly Black is published by Gollancz and is available from good book stores and online.


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