White Cat (The Curse Workers, Book 1)
Simon & Schuster Margaret K. McElderry (US & CA: 4th May 2010); Hachette Gollancz (UK & AU: 17th June 2010)
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When you’re the only one in the family who’s not a magic worker, you have to build your own talents. Cassel Sharpe is a liar and a con, making a small fortune taking bets at his boarding school. But sleepwalking leads him to a rooftop, about to jump, and it doesn’t help that a white cat is haunting his dreams – never letting Cassel forget that he murdered someone.
Normally I don’t like magic in urban fantasy, but Holly Black has created an intelligent, logical world where nothing comes for free, and blowback can very well destroy a worker. A suspicious feline, a crime family, and gruesome self-surgery combine for an intricate but enjoyable novel of mind games and mystery. A bit confusing, but well worth the persistence, White Cat is a massive step up from the author’s teen faery tales.
There are also hidden gems, such as this: It’s some more messed-up Olympian family stuff, starring Zeus. His pregnant girlfriend, Semele, gets tricked by his wife, Hera, into demanding to see Zeus in all his godly glory. Despite knowing this is going to kill Semele, he shows her the goods. A few minutes later he’s cutting baby Dionysus out of burned-up Semele’s womb and sewing him into his own leg. No wonder Dionysus drank all the time. I’ve never been interested in the Olympians before, but this is messed-up shiz!
And it’s not just mythology that’s effed: I see the necklace of keloids, where his maker cut across his throat to symbolise the death of Philip’s previous life, and then packed the wound with ash until it scarred in a long, swollen line…All labourers, minor crime bosses, have them. Just like a rose over the heart showed you were one of the Russian bratva, or like a yakuza inserts pearls under the skin of his penis for every year in jail. Holy freaking heck!