Ahoy there me mateys! This young adult novel caught me eye because it is written by Holly Black and has a cat on the cover (and in the title!):
I have only previously read two books by Holly Black: 1) the coldest girl in coldtown and 2) zombies vs. unicorns. The coldest girl in coldtown is a young adult vampire book. The zombie book is an anthology of short stories that argues about whether zombies or unicorns are better. I loved both of them and had been meaning to pick up another of her books for ages. So when I read the blurb for this one, I knew this would be the next Holly Black book I would try. I was not disappointed.
This novel is the story of Cassel who comes from a family of curseworkers but can’t perform curses himself. It takes place in our world with the addition of magic. Only magic is against the law. Thus Cassel’s family are a bunch of con-artists. For example, his mother can manipulate emotions. Mom is serving time in jail, his one brother is studying law and working on his mother’s appeal, and his other brother works for the mob.
Cassel is living a life in a boarding school with “normal” people. He feels he is an outsider in both worlds. Plus there is the catch that Cassel murdered his best friend three years ago but doesn’t remember doing so or why. His family covered it up of course. All Cassel wants is to fit in somewhere but his life begins to unravel even further when he begins to sleepwalk and has dreams featuring a white cat . . .
This book was very engaging and completely plot-twisting. I only guessed a couple of minor points. As Cassel learns the truth about his family’s exploits, he begins to come up with a plan to con the con-men. Following Cassel’s investigation was the highlight for me because I had no idea where the story was going. Cassel’s con of the mob was very silly but delightfully so.
A close second were the characterizations. Cassel self-proclaims that he is “not a good person.” He loves to con folk and there is the question of the murder. However as we follow Cassel’s journey, we begin to see that he is very much an unreliable narrator despite himself. It is wonderful. Add in secondary characters like the friends that Cassel makes along the way. There are actually girl and guy friends where there is NO romance. The romance that is in the book is not the main point and only enriches the story. I also loved reading about Cassel’s ridiculous family members. The grandfather in particular is awesome. His brothers and mom not so much. But I do understand in some fashion why Cassel makes the choices he does.
The ending was a cliff-hanging doozy of a plot twist. Normally such things aggravate me. Not this time. It seemed perfectly in line with all the other crazy plot twists and turns. Certainly makes me want to read the rest of the series. Ye might want to check it out.
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The author’s website has this to say about the novel:
Cassel comes from a shady, magical family of con artists and grifters. He doesn’t fit in at home or at school, so he’s used to feeling like an outsider. He’s also used to feeling guilty—he killed his best friend, Lila, years ago.
But when Cassel begins to have strange dreams about a white cat, and people around him are losing their memories, he starts to wonder what really happened to Lila. In his search for answers, he discovers a wicked plot for power that seems certain to succeed. But Cassel has other ideas—and a plan to con the conmen.
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