Author: Holly Black
Genre: YA Paranormal Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Call number: Y Black
First line: “I wake up barefoot, standing on cold slate tiles. Looking dizzily down.”
Summary (ganked from Goodreads): Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they’re all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn’t got the magic touch, so he’s an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.
Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He’s noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.
What I thought: I’ve never read one of Holly Black’s novels before, but I’ve read her graphic novel series, The Good Neighbors, and a lot of her short stories, and one thing that’s always impressed me about her is that she’s not afraid to take risks. To do the unexpected and uncomfortable. To create a sympathetic character, one you can identify with, and have him or her do something terrible. To take readers to a truly dark place.
This is not a book for everyone, because it’s not a happy story or a fast-paced one. It’s dark and subtle and you get the wool pulled over your eyes several times. You’re kept distant from most of the characters because Cassel is distant (though I think that Cassel is likable, but I don’t think everyone would agree with me.) There’s not a ton of action until the end; in fact, the plot develops slowly and you have to have patience that it’s all going to come together. The meticulous pacing allows the faint, nagging sense that something is wrong to develop, until the foreboding gets so thick that it makes up for the lack of action. In this kind of book, just when you have an emotional payoff and you’re letting out your breath in relief, something happens to stop it entirely. It’s a horror story and a heist story rolled up into one, and one of the more impressive books I’ve read this year. I have no idea where the next one in the series will go but I can’t wait.