White Cat (Curse Workers, book 1)
By Holly Black, read by Jesse Eisenberg
Published 2010 by Listening Library
Cassel comes from a family of workers, but doesn't have the touch himself. What he does have is a disturbing secret: he murdered his best friend three years ago. But when Cassel awakes one night on his school's roof after sleepwalking and dreaming of a message from a white cat, everything Cassel has believed about his life is thrown in the air.
I have to start by admitting how hesitant I was to read this, despite all the wonderful things I'd heard about the series. I'd only read one Holly Black novel before and it did not go over well with me. I felt underwhelmed about it in general and annoyed at some aspects in particular. So, I had my doubts about this one. However, I'm almost never willing to write an author off after just one try and this series has been incredibly well-received, so I downloaded the audiobook and listened while I commuted. And let me start by saying, I am elated that I did.
Let me get one little bit of unpleasantness out of the way. I have previously acknowledged my trepidation about famous narrators of audiobooks. I was pleasantly surprised by Teri Hatcher's narration of The Search for Wondla and I quite enjoy Eisenberg as an actor so I was willing to give it a shot. And, I think, in normal circumstances, he did a fine job of reading the audiobook. However, Cassel is described as, essentially, half-black and half-Indian (I don't have the book in front of me, so I can't quote exactly). I'm sorry, but I can't listen to Eisenberg's voice and get that picture in my head. There is some discussion of race in the novel and during this bit, I found Eisenberg's casting as narrator a bit distracting. But this is my only qualm about the book.
For, dear readers, this book is fantastic. It is edge-of-your-seat action-packed with magic and crazy crime drama. It's filled with characters who are shifty and downright double-crossers, who make no apologies for their behavior, and who absolutely would con the pants off of you, if given the chance. Black has created a fascinating alternate universe with details I truly want to explore. Additionally, she has peopled this world with realistic characters that I want to get to know better. I was completely hooked almost as soon as this book started and, though I was able to guess the big reveal before it was revealed, this did not deter from my enjoyment of the book at all. In fact, I think it made me even more interested in listening, dying to know how every detail would play out. Like other reviews I've seen, I can't help but compare this book to All These Things I've Done and make this book the clear winner in a head-to-head match-up: this book keeps the crime drama boiling under the surface, creating an atmosphere that is dark and full of mistrust. This is one of the few new series books where I actually can't wait to get my hands on the sequels. Bravo, Ms. Black. You've won me over.