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'e 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 outcon the conmen.
©2010 Holly Black (P)2010 Random House
This an intriguing story about magic, workers, family, the con, hiding who you are, school, friendship, loyalty, crime and growing up. It's a young adult/adult story, which is both a compelling crime story, and sometime mystery, and a compelling fantasy set in an alternative contemporary USA. The main difference is magic - in the form of cursework - exists, and was banned at the same time as alcohol; only the alcohol ban has been lifted, but that on magic hasn't, so curseworkers work for the mob. People are born with working abilities or they are not. Every working has an effect on the person being worked, and the worker.
The story opens in a dramatic way, with the protagonist up on his dorm roof with no idea how he got there, or how to get down. The school calls the fire brigade, who get him down, and the head suspends Cassel on medical leave until he can assure the school lawyers he won't sleepwalk again like this. Cassel is collected by his brother Philip, and first stays with him, then his grandfather. His family is acting strangely - more so than usual, or at least more than can usually be attributed to the behaviour of the workers in the family to the one non-worker in it. Cassel's main interest is getting back into school, but in the process he investigates his family and the mysteries that surround him. There are plenty of twists, turns and surprises.
The narrator is Jesse Eisenberger, who does a spellbinding, convincing and compelling job of bringing this book, its characters and world to life. I've started to read a print copy of this novel, and it's quite a different experience. The audio version is excellent, and the opening and closing music is just right to transport this listener in and out of this book's world, and not at all jarring. It strikes the right mystery, magic and noir notes. All in all, this book is well worth a listen.
This is a rather intriguing book, which does take a little getting used to. I did feel as if the world-building could have been a little better, and certain better explained, but after a while it does all seem natural, and I found myself pulled into the story.
In this fantasy world, some people are 'workers', which means they can affect people simply by touching them. It's not clear who is and who isn't, and therefore gloves are mandatory wear for everyone.
Cassel is the only one in his family who doesn't have this ability, but he has learnt how to con people if needed. He also attends a normal school, where he tries to act 'normal', not letting anyone know about his family, or his ability to con.
The story developed well from here, and I was pulled in enough by the end to buy the 2nd book :)
"Holly Black's Next Great Trick"
With White Cat, Holly Black's created a world where magic (or "working") was outlawed during prohibition. So, naturally today - business is booming for the mafia and their curse workers. Cassel's a teenage kid who doesn't fit in at the rich preppy boarding school he's been forced to attend, and he doesn't quite fit in with his family of con artists - most of who work for the mob. He doesn't have the working talents his brothers do, but he knows cons. When he finds himself about to take a walk off a rooftop in his sleep, he starts to think someone's playing him.
Black's YA books have a dark, gritty feel to them, and this one's no different. But at the same time, it's incredible fun listening as her story's long cons play out and are eventually revealed.
Jesse Eisenberg does a great job reading this - his performance is practiced nonchalance and low-key, so much so that you can't help wondering if he's just playing the odds and misdirecting your attention, making the magic feel all the more real and surprising.
Highly recommended if you like magic, gangsters, and con-artists.
"A light coming of age, urban fantasy, mob book"
This book held my attention for its outstanding narration, light and interesting character and fun plot. I am more of a light book fan as I often multi-task while listening and this book was perfect for me.
The reader was outstanding, I enjoyed listening to Jesse Eisenberg read this to me.
The story itself was fun to listen to, it had some elements to figure out, an interesting plot and fun characters. But it was a slightly strange mix of a young character in a fun light story that turns into a killer in a somewhat mobbish violent story. Regardless, I enjoyed it and will get the next book.
Story was original and Jesse narrating had me hooked.
That would give too much away, so instead I will just say that I enjoyed the big reveal.
I did listen to it in one sitting. I actually listened to it while cleaning, I was a little happier while I worked.
I tried reading this book when I got it from the library but I just put it down and did not pick it up again until it was time to return it.
However, I needed to read it for a challenge on Goodreads so I got the audible version to listen to during my commute.
Not that this was a bad story by any means but for me, the narrator seriously made all the difference in the world. Our main character, and his family, were severely flawed but the portrayal in the audio version made him likeable and human. It made me root for (and feel for) him. So much so, that at one point I really wanted to beat up a fictional character on his behalf.
"Great Story, Poor Narration - To Distraction"
I read this book and adored everything about it. The world, it's settings, it's characters, and it's mystery. I had been very pleased to see it on Audible after reading it. I had been further enthused when I saw Jesse Eisenberg would read it, even though he was an unexpected reader. He's an actor and I felt like he would definitely narrate very well.
I bought it and I could barely get through it. I admit, that sometimes some things are better read than said. This is one of those instances. Eisenberg's voice is not the kind you would expect to narrate, which is why I was so surprised. But I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt.
Jesse doesn't have a good range of voices or inflection. Everything is spoken clearly, but nearly emotion-less. The males characters are somewhat indistinguishable from each other. The females aren't squeaky and Jesse handles them ok, but the lack of depth of his voice makes everything run together. It becomes boring. Very boring.
The moments where gets it right are few and far in between. I think the very end of the book is when I actually feel anything concerning the characters. Hopefully, if he reads the next installment, he gets better.
You should definitely read this book instead of listening and if you're curious, preview it before buying.
"Entertaining and with a few unexpected plot twists"
Yes, I enjoyed the story and the characters enough to have fun listening to it again. I will probably listen to it again (as well as the second book) right before the third book is released to not get lost in the story.
Predictably, the main character Cassel. I found him to be the most relatable and amusing character, the other main ones I didn't seem to be able to connect with so much until the second book in the series. Cassel is smart, funny and charming but still obviously flawed and somewhat tortured and mysterious so he makes for a realistic and interesting read.
I'm very familiar with his work acting in movies but I had never heard his performance reading and audiobook before this one. I think he did a very good job.
In some parts of the book (particularly the ending) yes, I wanted to read the whole thing in one sitting, but in others the pace slows down and I was perfectly capable to put it down and read some more latter.
I'm looking forward to the sequels.
another great story by Black... but narrator is definitely no Jim Dale, but it didn't ruin the experience. once you get into the rhythm of his narration it's OK. this audio book would've been amazing with a more talented reader.
"Fun, short and charming"
Jesse Eisenberg is the perfect choice to read this book: youthful, anxious and insecure gives Cassel a natural voice in his adventure to understand himself, his family and his own history as a member of a curse worker family.
I loved this book. Jesse was great. The story was positively fantastic. Itsa Must Read.
This book will grip you from the first few sentences to the last word said. Jesse Eisenberg does an amazing job narrating Cassel Sharpe
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