The Curse Workers Trilogy by Holly Black
[I read all three in quick succession; the whole trilogy was already released. So I decided to do a review for the entire series.]
Well, my first look at this series was the original hardcover look (on the left), which….does not impress. The paperback style (above) was subsequently used as hc for the third book. So much better. It’s beautiful and subtle. Here are the other two in the series.
[For White Cat only, for reasons of spoilers]
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 criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. But not Cassel. He hasn’t got magic, 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.
Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his facade starts to crumble when he finds himself 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. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.
This is a complete trilogy. It didn’t feel like a typical trilogy to me, probably at least partly because I read them so close together, but also because it feels very homogeneous–like it was one book that just happened to come packaged in three parts.
Black isn’t afraid to delve into what a magic-fueled Mafia tradition might mean, and how screwed up it makes Cassel and his family. Cassel may try to do the right thing (not always the legal thing), but he is also determined to find out the truth and get what he wants. It makes for an engrossing, often shocking read.
Magic that has consequences! Whenever any worker uses their power, they get “blowback”, which is basically an uncontrollable manifestation of the same type of magic that they just used. This makes so much sense, and makes the magic mean more than in a story where it’s effortless.
Crime family! Although there’s no way I want to belong to one, they do make for good stories.
Noir! The trilogy is basically a fantasy crime noir. And I love me some morally ambiguous characters.
This series is about two things: emotions and actions. Time and again, Cassel has to weigh his choice of action against his personal emotions, and choose what he thinks is best. Spoiler: he doesn’t always choose correctly, and sometimes there’s no right choice. The more I think about it, the less I can believe that Black was allowed to publish this as teen fiction! I love it, though. I can’t think of anything that I would change.
Bought all three volumes.