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.
Holly Black has created a gripping tale of mobsters and dark magic where a single touch can bring love — or death — and your dreams might be more real than your memories.
How do you write a book review for this without giving away any spoilers? No really.
Once I got past page 50 of this book I was hooked!
I loved how Holly Black kept the story small, but didn’t forget about the larger world issues that her world building would impact. This is an alternative reality where people have magic abilities through touch, and everyone wears gloves to be safe. I love how she built on our own world history and used it with a twist for her book. I also like how the book stays small, and doesn’t become a whole world issues novel. It struck the perfect balance.
I also really love how Holly Black handled her magic. There is a price to pay for what you are meddling with. I appreciate that it wasn’t just all power with no consequences.
This is told first person male POV, and never once did I ever feel as though it were forced. I love that Cassel’s family works for a mob boss, and that Cassel has a dark and shady past that even he doesn’t know all about. I loved how Holly Black handled the flashbacks to his old life to breath character into the present circumstances. I especially loved his relationship with Lila.
There is also a remarkable job of having supporting characters that feel real and have their own agendas, but also how their lives mesh and mix with Cassel to form the story. Cassel has trust issues, and doesn’t believe in having anyone in your life that doesn’t want something from you in return, and seeing how he grew up you get why this is. Therefore when he was letting friends into his life, it was an emotionally moving experience for the reader.
Holly knows exactly how to create a believable fantasy world, and keep her story tight. She does a remarkable job of first person male point of view. The love story feels true and awkward as it should be, and the family situation reminds me of all the reasons we love and hate our own families.