The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
Imagine The Sopranos with magic, then maybe throw in a touch of Memento and you might come up with The White Cat. It's set in a world that is just like ours except for the magic workers, people who have a particular occult skill which might be the ability to change other people's memories, alter luck, kill with just one touch, or transform one thing into something completely different. Those who possess these occult skills are known as workers and in America and Europe they have organised themselves into mafia-style families, where they control a huge criminal underworld.
It's Cassel's bad luck to be born into a worker family but, apparently, to possess absolutely no magical ability. Nor does his misfortune end there. It seems he murdered, Lila, the daughter of one of the most powerful magical families without even realising he was doing it. His own family are covering up for him and what Cassel should be doing is keeping a low profile. So when he wakes up on the roof of his boarding school in the middle of the night wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts he knows he's screwed up again, big time. But what brought on this sudden and nearly fatal somnambulistic episode? And why did he kill Lila when he was crazy about her? None of it makes sense to Cassel.
It took a while before it made sense to me as well. Holly Black makes no compromises: she's not going to explain what's going on for the reader's convenience. You have to work it out for yourself. This made it a little difficult for me to engage with the book at first. I had to persevere, believing that it would all become clear in time. And it did.
Clever, sharp and shot through with a juandiced wit, The White Cat is a terrific piece of genre-crunching.