Today’s Book: White Cat (The Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black
A Little Background: The setting is something of a parallel universe - our world, but not exactly - in the modern era of computers and the like. Where it differs, of course, is in the inclusion of a section of people who can work curses simply by touching you with their bare hands. In this book, we learn about emotion workers, body workers (who can break bones with a touch), luck workers, memory workers, dream workers, and two rarer groups: death workers and transformation workers. In the United States of this America, Working is a crime, which means that criminals do the Working - the top crime families (like the mob) all have big Worker populations. To protect oneself against "the touch," everyone wears gloves and you can buy amulets against curses along with a pack of smokes at the gas station, though there's no guarantee it'll be as good as one purchased from a psychic's tent at a dirt mall.
The Meat of the Story: Cassel Sharpe, youngest of three brothers in a Worker family, has no power of his own. His eldest brother, Philip, works for the Zacharov family, and bears a necklace of scars to prove it, which is likened to the Yakuza practice of counting prison years (look it up.) Three years ago, Cassel killed his friend Lila Zacharov, and now can only remember standing over her bloody body with a knife and a satisfied smile. Now, he's taking after his mother's con-man (con-woman) roots by running a numbers game out of his room at his private boarding school.
When he gets temporarily kicked out for sleepwalking, and sent home to work with his brothers and his retired death-worker Grandad, things start to spiral out of his control, and he finds that his life isn't what he thought it was.
What you’ll Love About It: It’s interspersed with great asides about what Cassel loves about the con, and enough background on the Workers and their history, so that you feel like even though this isn’t your world, you know enough about it that it makes sense to you. You’ll be drawn in by veteran writer Black, and eagerly await the other books in this series; the next is Red Glove, which is likely due out sometime next year.
Bonus: To advertise the books, the Curse Workers website offers banners like these, that might actually show up on billboards and subway signs in Cassel's world.
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