By Holly Black
THE CURSE WORKERS SERIES is truly a breath of fresh air in the genre. My only wish is that I wish Holly Black had delved more into the most interesting thing about it – the curses!
Granted, I feel like the first book, White Cat, is wonderful. The other installations don’t quite capture the magic of a kid named Cassel who discovers he is a rare Transformation worker (voiced on the audio book by Jesse Eisenburg who is a perfect Cassel, I may add). I would recommend the first book in the series and read the others if you’re really head over heels for the characters. Me, not so much, since the focus on all the really cool things that could be achieved with curse working was traded in for a focus on the more everyday lives of our elite high school students.
Anyway, this review is on the first book. And it’s awesome. Sleight of hand, charming, death curses, power over memory – these are but a handful of gifts that a Curse Worker may manifest in an alternate America, where Black has set up a great world full of crime lords employing these curse workers, the law who forbids such practice, and your everyday, normal millennial. Cassel is the type of hero who is smooth talking and doesn’t know when to stop, which often gets himself into trouble, but he also picks up on things and knows when he’s being played, which is cool. He is the one non-gifted son in a gifted Curse Worker family: his mother can charm, his brother Philip is a brawler, and his other brother Barron, is a memory worker, which means he can manipulate memories (scary!) His grandfather is a death worker, which means he can kill people with a touch. What is neat about these curses is that they have “blowback” on the person doing them, which means that however big the curse, so much more will be the price toll upon the curser. His grandfather can lose teeth, fingers, ect for taking a life, that sort of thing.
Cassel does have his faults. He is hopelessly in love with Lila, the daughter of a Curse Worker family mob boss, which is always annoying when you as the reader don’t see what’s so great about her. However, it is revealed early on that Lila is *dead* due to Cassel…or is she? Cassel has memories of doing the deed, but as his brother is a memory worker, it goes to show that in this world, you don’t know who you can trust, and the truth can be far more twisted. Cassel gets entangled in unraveling the mystery behind Lila’s death with the help of a mysterious white cat who appears in his dreams, and the result is a smart alec adventure where Cassel discovers just where he fits in this Curse worker world.
I would definitely recommend – the plot is slow in places, but I highly savored returning to this audio book on my to-and-from work commutes. The ending keeps you on the edge of your seat, and I definitely enjoyed the twists and turns. Cassel is an endearing, flawed protagonist who stands out as real in the very Gary Stu YA fiction spectrum. I’m not as satisfied with the other installments, but this one stands well on its own!
Recommended for fans of: Rick Riordan, Laini Taylor, Jonathan StroudUpcoming Book Review: Antigoddess by Kendare Blake