WARNING – This post is rife with spoilers. Proceed at your own risk, forewarned, etc.
A couple of weeks ago I was reading through one of the zillion newsletters in my inbox, and I happened upon a mention of White Cat by Holly Black that said it was about magical con artists. I had heard of this book, but somehow I missed this key piece of information. A YA book about magic and about cons? I couldn’t get to the library fast enough.
Now, when I think about magical con artists, this is what springs to mind:
However, these are con artists who perform magic (or illluuuuuuuusions, as Nate says). Totally different than magical con artists. Obviously.
I’d like to start by saying that this was a fun read. I feel that some of the following might make it seem like I did not enjoy this book, and that’s simply not true. I am just a jaded old crone with a tendency to nit-pick.
This was kind of a predictable plot, as far as general story arcs go. In fact, Captain Awesome successfully predicted where the story would go when I told her about what I was reading. Fortunately, this is a book that is good because of the details and not because of the overarching plot.
In a world where magic runs in families of workers, Cassel Sharpe is the only member of his family who is not a worker. He also believes that he murdered his childhood friend and crush Lila, though all he remembers is gleefully standing over her body with a bloody knife. More and more strange things begin to happen to Cassel, and his suspicions are aroused. His suspicions are generally on high alert anyways – he comes from a family of con
artists and hit men for the mob, so he has trust issues. He knows that he can’t be trusted, so why should he trust anyone else? He thinks he’s been worked, so he starts taking precautions, which include slicing his leg open with a razor blade and sewing some amulets in right under the skin. These protections prove that he was right to be wary. He has been worked, and his memory has been modified. He also discovers that he is, in fact, a worker, and not just any worker. He’s the best and rarest kind of worker – a transformation worker. (Remember when Bella Swan was the bestest vampire that ever vampired, and you saw it coming about 2000 pages away? This is inevitable in the same way but without having to slog through Stephenie Meyer’s repetitive and dull prose.)
Needless to say, Cassel begins to feel a little overwhelmed. One, he’s still a teenager, and the added hormones probably don’t help with huge, life-changing revalations. Two, he realizes that his family has known about his ability for most of his life, and they’ve kept it from him. Three, they’ve kept it from him by having his brother Barron modify his memory on a regular basis so that he does not remember transforming things. Four, Barron and their older brother Philip have been using Cassel to perform hits for the mob and to elevate their status as the best hit men that money can buy since they can get rid of the bodies without leaving a trace. Five, Cassel did not, in fact, kill Lila. Barron and Philip tried to make him kill Lila and he transformed her into a cat instead, hoping that she would escape. Unfortunately, they caught her and kept her in captivity for years (also forced to do their bidding. She is a dream worker, and she modifies dreams to suit their needs, mostly to make marks sleepwalk outside so that they’re easy to pick off) until Cassel figures things out and changes her back. SO MUCH DRAMA. And, to top it all off, his emotion-worker mother tries to make it up to him by working Lila and making her love Cassel, which he does not appreciate. It’s all very exhausting, and understandably so. I will definitely be picking up Red Glove to see what happens next. I hope that Cassel gets his revenge on all of them. And that Lila gives nightmares to Barron and Phillip. No rest for the wicked.
And, since you probably have this song in your head now: