I got an advanced reading copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program. I was really excited to read this book because I am a huge Holly Black fan. I loved Black’s Modern Fairy Tale series, loved the Spiderwick Chronicles and have enjoyed her graphic novel series The Good Neighbors. This book was okay, but not nearly as engaging as I was hoping for.
Cassel comes from a family of curse workers, but is not a Curse Worker himself. Curse workers can do things and specialize in a single area (emotions, physical, memory, dreams, transformation). Cassel’s family is involved with the Curse Worker equivalent of the Mafia. When Cassel start having disturbing dreams and begins to be trailed by a white cat, he starts thinking that things are not what they seem to be. He begins to worry that his brothers are keeping secrets from him and are more deeply involved in the Curse Worker Mafia than he originally thought. He need to figure out what is going on before his dreams end up killing him.
I am not sure what I expected from this book, but whatever I expected, this book wasn’t it. The majority of this book is about conning people, confidence schemes, and the Mafia. There is magic involved (in Cursing) but it is overshadowed by all the political maneuvering and scheming. So, if you are into reading about Mafia type setups and con-men then this is the book for you.
I usually find Black’s characters very engaging, but that was not the case in this book. It’s very hard to like Cassel or to feel bad for him. He states many times that he is not a nice person, and even in his ignorance, he isn’t. His friends are in the story only a small amount, and as such aren’t well defined. His brothers are flat-out jerks. Even the girl from his past, Lila, is not a character that you can really like.
The plot was fine and moved along at a fast clip. There are a number of twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing. Some of the twists at the end of the book are humorous and ironic. The writing style was very readable, but lacked description. The writing style was also more simplistic than I am used to from Black’s previous works, at least along the lines of complexity and description.
I did find the world with Curse Workers included to be interesting. I found the concept of “blowback” every time you work a curse to be interesting. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of background given on Curse Workers and how they interact with the rest of the world. Some politics behind Curse Working are discussed but not in great detail. I have a feeling that this is going to be visited in a lot more depth in future novels in this series.
Overall this was an okay book. The plot and magic system were interesting; I thought characterization and writing were only so-so. This has potential to become a really interesting series in future books, but this book left me uncertain as to whether or not I will actually read more books in this series. The concept of Curse Workers itself is creative and intriguing; it just wasn’t pulled off in a very exciting way and in general the book left me kind of bored. Definitely not one of Black’s best efforts. I would check out either her Modern Fairy Tale series or The Spiderwick Chronicles first.