The first installment in The Curse Workers series from New York Times bestselling author Holly Black: “Urban fantasy, con story—whatever you call it, read it” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
Cassel comes from a family of con artists and grifters, all of them curse workers but him. On top of that, Cassel is plagued by guilt that he killed his best friend, Lila, years ago.
When Cassel begins to have strange dreams about a white cat and people around him are losing their memories, he starts to wonder what really happened to Lila, and what that means about his actions. In Cassel’s search for answers about Lila and himself, he realizes that his brothers have been conning him for years, and that the final piece in their quest for power is about to fall into place. Cassel has other ideas. He’s going to create an even more elaborate trap and, with Lila’s help, con a bunch of magic using conmen.
This “beautifully realized dark fantasy...with prose that moves from stark simplicity to almost surreal intensity in a moment” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) is rife with the unexpected. “Readers will be hooked” (Booklist) on White Cat.
About the Author
Holly Black is the author of bestselling contemporary fantasy books for kids and teens. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), the Modern Faerie Tales series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, The Darkest Part of the Forest, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare), and the Folk of the Air series. She has been a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award, a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of both an Andre Norton Award and a Newbery Honor. She lives in New England with her husband and son in a house with a secret door. Visit her at BlackHolly.com.
Read an Excerpt
I WAKE UP BAREFOOT, standing on cold slate tiles. Looking dizzily down. I suck in a breath of icy air.
Above me are stars. Below me, the bronze statue of Colonel Wallingford makes me realize I’m seeing the quad from the peak of Smythe Hall, my dorm.
I have no memory of climbing the stairs up to the roof. I don’t even know how to get where I am, which is a problem since I’m going to have to get down, ideally in a way that doesn’t involve dying.
Teetering, I will myself to be as still as possible. Not to inhale too sharply. To grip the slate with my toes.
The night is quiet, the kind of hushed middle-of-the-night quiet that makes every shuffle or nervous panting breath echo. When the black outlines of trees overhead rustle, I jerk in surprise. My foot slides on something slick. Moss.
I try to steady myself, but my legs go out from under me.
I scrabble for something to hold on to as my bare chest slams down on the slate. My palm comes down hard on a sharp bit of copper flashing, but I hardly feel the pain. Kicking out, my foot finds a snow guard, and I press my toes against it, steadying myself. I laugh with relief, even though I am shaking so badly that climbing is out of the question.
Cold makes my fingers numb. The adrenaline rush makes my brain sing.
“Help,” I say softly, and feel crazy nervous laughter bubble up my throat. I bite the inside of my cheek to tamp it down.
I can’t ask for help. I can’t call anyone. If I do, then my carefully maintained pretense that I’m just a regular guy is going to fade forever. Sleepwalking is kid’s stuff, weird and embarrassing.
Looking across the roof in the dim light, I try to make out the pattern of snow guards, tiny triangular pieces of clear plastic that keep ice from falling in a sheet, tiny triangular pieces that were never meant to hold my weight. If I can get closer to a window, maybe I can climb down.
I edge my foot out, shifting as slowly as I can and worming toward the nearest snow guard. My stomach scrapes against the slate, some of the tiles chipped and uneven beneath me. I step onto the first guard, then down to another and across to one at the edge of the roof. There, panting, with the windows too far beneath me and with nowhere left to go, I decide I am not willing to die from embarrassment.
I suck in three deep breaths of cold air and yell.
“Hey! Hey! Help!” The night absorbs my voice. I hear the distant swell of engines along the highway, but nothing from the windows below me.
“HEY!” I scream it this time, guttural, as loudly as I can, loud enough that the words scrape my throat raw. “Help!”
A light flickers on in one of the rooms and I see the press of palms against a glass pane. A moment later the window slides open. “Hello?” someone calls sleepily from below. For a moment her voice reminds me of another girl. A dead girl.
I hang my head off the side and try to give my most chagrined smile. Like she shouldn’t freak out. “Up here,” I say. “On the roof.”
“Oh, my God,” Justine Moore gasps.
Willow Davis comes to the window. “I’m getting the hall master.”
I press my cheek against the cold tile and try to convince myself that everything’s okay, that it’s not a curse, that if I just hang on a little longer, things are going to be fine.
A crowd gathers below me, spilling out of the dorms.
“Jump,” some jerk shouts. “Do it!”
“Mr. Sharpe?” Dean Wharton calls. “Come down from there at once, Mr. Sharpe!” His silver hair sticks up like he’s been electrocuted, and his robe is inside out and badly tied. The whole school can see his tighty-whities.
I realize abruptly that I’m wearing only boxers. If he looks ridiculous, I look worse.
“Cassel!” Ms. Noyes yells. “Cassel, don’t jump! I know things have been hard . . .” She stops there, like she isn’t quite sure what to say next. She’s probably trying to remember what’s so hard. I have good grades. Play well with others.
I look down again. Camera phones flash. Freshmen hang out of windows next door in Strong House, and juniors and seniors stand around on the grass in their pajamas and nightgowns, even though teachers are desperately trying to herd them back inside.
I give my best grin. “Cheese,” I say softly.
“Get down, Mr. Sharpe,” yells Dean Wharton. “I’m warning you!”
“I’m okay, Ms. Noyes,” I call. “I don’t know how I got up here. I think I was sleepwalking.”
I’d dreamed of a white cat. It leaned over me, inhaling sharply, as if it was going to suck the breath from my lungs, but then it bit out my tongue instead. There was no pain, only a sense of overwhelming, suffocating panic. In the dream my tongue was a wriggling red thing, mouse-size and wet, that the cat carried in her mouth. I wanted it back. I sprang up out of the bed and grabbed for her, but she was too lean and too quick. I chased her. The next thing I knew, I was teetering on a slate roof.
A siren wails in the distance, drawing closer. My cheeks hurt from smiling.
Eventually a fireman climbs a ladder to get me down. They put a blanket around me, but by then my teeth are chattering so hard that I can’t answer any of their questions. It’s like the cat bit out my tongue after all.
The last time I was in the headmistress’s office, my grandfather was there with me to enroll me at the school. I remember watching him empty a crystal dish of peppermints into the pocket of his coat while Dean Wharton talked about what a fine young man I would be turned into. The crystal dish went into the opposite pocket.
Wrapped in a blanket, I sit in the same green leather chair and pick at the gauze covering my palm. A fine young man indeed.
“Sleepwalking?” Dean Wharton says. He’s dressed in a brown tweed suit, but his hair is still wild. He stands near a shelf of outdated encyclopedias and strokes a gloved finger over their crumbling leather spines.
I notice there’s a new cheap glass dish of mints on the desk. My head is pounding. I wish the mints were aspirin.
“I used to sleepwalk,” I say. “I haven’t done it in a long time.”
Somnambulism isn’t all that uncommon in kids, boys especially. I looked it up online after waking in the driveway when I was thirteen, my lips blue with cold, unable to shake the eerie feeling that I’d just returned from somewhere I couldn’t quite recall.
Outside the leaded glass windows the rising sun limns the trees with gold. The headmistress, Ms. Northcutt, looks puffy and red-eyed. She’s drinking coffee out of a mug with the Wallingford logo on it and gripping it so tightly the leather of her gloves over her knuckles is pulled taut.
“I heard you’ve been having some problems with your girlfriend,” Headmistress Northcutt says.
“No,” I say. “Not at all.” Audrey broke up with me after the winter holiday, exhausted by my moodiness. It’s impossible to have problems with a girlfriend who’s no longer mine.
The headmistress clears her throat. “Some students think you are running a betting pool. Are you in some kind of trouble? Owe someone money?”
I look down and try not to smile at the mention of my tiny criminal empire. It’s just a little forgery and some bookmaking. I’m not running a single con; I haven’t even taken up my brother Philip’s suggestion that we could be the school’s main supplier for underage booze. I’m pretty sure the headmistress doesn’t care about betting, but I’m glad she doesn’t know that the most popular odds are on which teachers are hooking up. Northcutt and Wharton are a long shot, but that doesn’t stop people laying cash on them. I shake my head.
“Have you experienced mood swings lately?” Dean Wharton asks.
“No,” I say.
“What about changes in appetite or sleep patterns?” He sounds like he’s reciting the words from a book.
“The problem is my sleep patterns,” I say.
“What do you mean?” asks Headmistress Northcutt, suddenly intent.
“Nothing! Just that I was sleepwalking, not trying to kill myself. And if I wanted to kill myself, I wouldn’t throw myself off a roof. And if I was going to throw myself off a roof, I would put on some pants before I did it.”
The headmistress takes a sip from her cup. She’s relaxed her grip. “Our lawyer advised me that until a doctor can assure us that nothing like this will happen again, we can’t allow you to stay in the dorms. You’re too much of an insurance liability.”
I thought that people would give me a lot of crap, but I never thought there would be any real consequences. I thought I was going to get a scolding. Maybe even a couple of demerits. I’m too stunned to say anything for a long moment. “But I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Which is stupid, of course. Things don’t happen to people because they deserve them. Besides, I’ve done plenty wrong.
“Your brother Philip is coming to pick you up,” Dean Wharton says. He and the headmistress exchange looks, and Wharton’s hand goes unconsciously to his neck, where I see the colored cord and the outline of the amulet under his white shirt.
I get it. They’re wondering if I’ve been worked. Cursed. It’s not that big a secret that my grandfather was a death worker for the Zacharov family. He’s got the blackened stubs where his fingers used to be to prove it. And if they read the paper, they know about my mother. It’s not a big leap for Wharton and Northcutt to blame any and all strangeness concerning me on curse work.
“You can’t kick me out for sleepwalking,” I say, getting to my feet. “That can’t be legal. Some kind of discrimination against—” I stop speaking as cold dread settles in my stomach, because for a moment I wonder if I could have been cursed. I try to think back to whether someone brushed me with a hand, but I can’t recall anyone touching me who wasn’t clearly gloved.
“We haven’t come to any determination about your future here at Wallingford yet.” The headmistress leafs through some of the papers on her desk. The dean pours himself a coffee.
“I can still be a day student.” I don’t want to sleep in an empty house or crash with either of my brothers, but I will. I’ll do whatever lets me keep my life the way it is.
“Go to your dorm and pack some things. Consider yourself on medical leave.”
“Just until I get a doctor’s note,” I say.
Neither of them replies, and after a few moments of standing awkwardly, I head for the door.
Don’t be too sympathetic. Here’s the essential truth about me: I killed a girl when I was fourteen. Her name was Lila, she was my best friend, and I loved her. I killed her anyway. There’s a lot of the murder that seems like a blur, but my brothers found me standing over her body with blood on my hands and a weird smile tugging at my mouth. What I remember most is the feeling I had looking down at Lila—the giddy glee of having gotten away with something.
No one knows I’m a murderer except my family. And me, of course.
I don’t want to be that person, so I spend most of my time at school faking and lying. It takes a lot of effort to pretend you’re something you’re not. I don’t think about what music I like; I think about what music I should like. When I had a girlfriend, I tried to convince her I was the guy she wanted me to be. When I’m in a crowd, I hang back until I can figure out how to make them laugh. Luckily, if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s faking and lying.
I told you I’d done plenty wrong.
I pad, still barefoot, still wrapped in the scratchy fireman’s blanket, across the sunlit quad and up to my dorm room. Sam Yu, my roommate, is looping a skinny tie around the collar of a wrinkled dress shirt when I walk through the door. He looks up, startled.
“I’m fine,” I say wearily. “In case you were going to ask.”
Sam’s a horror film enthusiast and hard-core science geek who has covered our dorm room with bug-eyed alien masks and gore-spattered posters. His parents want him to go to MIT and from there to some profitable pharmaceuticals gig. He wants to do special effects for movies. Despite the facts that he’s built like a bear and is obsessed with fake blood, he has so far failed to stand up to them to the degree that they don’t even know there’s a disagreement. I like to think we’re sort of friends.
We don’t hang out with many of the same people, which makes being sort of friends easier.
“I wasn’t doing . . . whatever you think I was doing,” I tell him. “I don’t want to die or anything.”
Sam smiles and pulls on his Wallingford gloves. “I was just going to say that it’s a good thing you don’t sleep commando.”
I snort and drop onto my cot. The frame squeaks in protest. On the pillow next to my head rests a new envelope, marked with a code telling me a freshman wants to put fifty dollars on Victoria Quaroni to win the talent show. The odds are astronomical, but the money reminds me that someone’s going to have to keep the books and pay out while I’m away.
Sam kicks the base of the footboard lightly. “You sure you’re okay?”
I nod. I know I should tell him that I’m going home, that he’s about to become one of those lucky guys with a single, but I don’t want to disturb my own fragile sense of normalcy. “Just tired.”
Sam picks up his backpack. “See you in class, crazy-man.”
I raise my bandaged hand in farewell, then stop myself. “Hey, wait a sec.”
Hand on the doorknob, he turns.
“I was just thinking . . . if I’m gone. Do you think you could let people keep dropping off the money here?” It bothers me to ask, simultaneously putting me in his debt and making the whole kicked-out thing real, but I’m not ready to give up the one thing I’ve got going for me at Wallingford.
“Forget it,” I say. “Pretend I never—”
He interrupts me. “Do I get a percentage?”
“Twenty-five,” I say. “Twenty-five percent. But you’re going to have to do more than just collect the money for that.”
He nods slowly. “Yeah, okay.”
I grin. “You’re the most trustworthy guy I know.”
“Flattery will get you everywhere,” Sam says. “Except, apparently, off a roof.”
“Nice,” I say with a groan. I push myself off the bed and take a clean pair of itchy black uniform pants out of the dresser.
“So why would you be gone? They’re not kicking you out, right?”
Pulling on the pants, I turn my face away, but I can’t keep the unease out of my voice. “No. I don’t know. Let me set you up.”
He nods. “Okay. What do I do?”
“I’ll give you my notebook on point spreads, tallies, everything, and you just fill in whatever bets you get.” I stand, pulling my desk chair over to the closet and hopping up on the seat. “Here.” My fingers close on the notebook I taped above the door. I rip it down. Another one from sophomore year is still up there, from when business got big enough I could no longer rely on my pretty-good-but-not-photographic memory.
Sam half-smiles. I can tell he’s amazed that he never noticed my hiding spot. “I think I can manage that.”
The pages he’s flipping through are records of all the bets made since the beginning of our junior year at Wallingford, and the odds on each. Bets on whether the mouse loose in Stanton Hall will be killed by Kevin Brown with his mallet, or by Dr. Milton with his bacon-baited traps, or be caught by Chaiyawat Terweil with his lettuce-filled and totally humane trap. (The odds favor the mallet.) On whether Amanda, Sharone, or Courtney would be cast as the female lead in Pippin and whether the lead would be taken down by her understudy. (Courtney got it; they’re still in rehearsals.) On how many times a week “nut brownies with no nuts” will be served in the cafeteria.
Real bookies take a percentage, relying on a balanced book to guarantee a profit. Like, if someone puts down five bucks on a fight, they’re really putting down four fifty, and the other fifty cents is going to the bookie. The bookie doesn’t care who wins; he only cares that the odds work so he can use the money from the losers to pay the winners. I’m not a real bookie. Kids at Wallingford want to bet on silly stuff, stuff that might never come true. They have money to burn. So some of the time I calculate the odds the right way—the real bookie way—and some of the time I calculate the odds my way and just hope I get to pocket everything instead of paying out what I can’t afford. You could say that I’m gambling too. You’d be right.
“Remember,” I say, “cash only. No credit cards; no watches.”
He rolls his eyes. “Are you seriously telling me someone thinks you have a credit card machine up in here?”
“No,” I say. “They want you to take their card and buy something that costs what they owe. Don’t do it; it looks like you stole their card, and believe me, that’s what they’ll tell their parents.”
Sam hesitates. “Yeah,” he says finally.
“Okay,” I say. “There’s a new envelope on the desk. Don’t forget to mark down everything.” I know I’m nagging, but I can’t tell him that I need the money I make. It’s not easy to go to a school like this without money. I’m the only seventeen-year-old at Wallingford without a car.
I motion to him to hand me the book.
Just as I’m taping it into place, someone raps loudly on the door, causing me to nearly topple over. Before I can say anything, it opens, and our hall master walks in. He looks at me like he’s half-expecting to find me threading a noose.
I hop down from the chair. “I was just—”
“Thanks for getting down my bag,” Sam says.
“Samuel Yu,” says Mr. Valerio. “I’m fairly sure that breakfast is over and classes have started.”
“I bet you’re right,” Sam says, with a smirk in my direction.
I could con Sam if I wanted to. I’d do it just this way, asking for his help, offering him a little profit at the same time. Take him for a chunk of his parents’ cash. I could con Sam, but I won’t.
Really, I won’t.
As the door clicks shut behind Sam, Valerio turns to me. “Your brother can’t come until tomorrow morning, so you’re going to have to attend classes with the rest of the students. We’re still discussing where you’ll be spending the night.”
“You can always tie me to the bedposts,” I say, but Valerio doesn’t find that very funny.
My mother explained the basics of the con around the same time she explained about curse work. For her the curse was how she got what she wanted and the con was how she got away with it. I can’t make people love or hate instantly, like she can, turn their bodies against them like Philip can, or take their luck away like my other brother, Barron, but you don’t need to be a worker to be a con artist.
For me the curse is a crutch, but the con is everything.
It was my mother who taught me that if you’re going to screw someone over—with magic and wit, or wit alone—you have to know the mark better than he knows himself.
The first thing you have to do is gain his confidence. Charm him. Just be sure he thinks he’s smarter than you are. Then you—or, ideally, your partner—suggest the score.
Let your mark get something right up front the first time. In the business that’s called the “convincer.” When he knows he’s already got money in his pocket and can walk away, that’s when he relaxes his guard.
The second go is when you introduce bigger stakes. The big score. This is the part my mother never has to worry about. As an emotion worker, she can make anyone trust her. But she still needs to go through the steps, so that later, when they think back on it, they don’t figure out she worked them.
After that there’s only the blow-off and the getaway.
Being a con artist means thinking that you’re smarter than everyone else and that you’ve thought of everything. That you can get away with anything. That you can con anyone.
I wish I could say that I don’t think about the con when I deal with people, but the difference between me and my mother is that I don’t con myself.
© 2010 Katy Grant
Reading Group Guide
A Reading Group Guide to
White Cat and Red Glove of The Curse Workers Series
by Holly Black
About White Cat
Cassel comes from a family of curse workers—people who have the power to change a person’s emotions, memories, or luck with the slightest touch of the hand. 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 façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts to crumble when he finds himself sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat. He’s noticed 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 must outcon the conmen.
The starting point for White Cat was the fairy tale of that name, written by Madame d’Aulnoy. Ask readers to read the fairy tale and then see what they can find in it that relates to what happens with Cassel and Lila. Or ask them to read the fairy tale and analyze what it says about love and trust.
Discussion Questions for White Cat
Why doesn’t Cassel want to call for help?
What does Cassel see in his dream about the white cat?
Cassel says, “They’re wondering if I’ve been worked. Cursed. It’s not that big a secret that my grandfather was a death worker for the Zacharov family.” What does this reveal about Cassel and his family?
Who does Cassel say he murdered?
Why does Cassel spend most of his time at school “faking and lying”?
What kind of bookie operation does Cassel run at Wallingford?
Why can’t Cassel tell Sam that he needs the money he makes?
What did Cassel’s mother teach him about the basics of the con and curse work?
Cassel says, “For me the curse is a crutch, but the con is everything.” How is that different from how his mother thinks of the curse and con?
What is the difference Cassel says is between him and his mother?
What are two reasons Cassel says kids come to Wallingford? Why did Barron want Cassel to go there? What does Cassel think of Wallingford?
What is HEX, and what is Daneca Wasserman’s connection to it? Why does Daneca want Cassel to meet her mother?
What is the meaning of HBG?
How would you describe Cassel's relationships with his brothers, Barron and Philip?
Why will Cassel always be an outsider in his family?
What does Audrey suggest could have been the cause of Cassel’s sleepwalking?
What happens in the second dream Cassel has about the white cat?
What makes Cassel think of Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Tell-Tale Heart"?
What is ironic about Cassel’s nightmares about Lila?
When did Cassel realize he had a talent for crime?
What is an onomasticon? Why is Cassel concerned for the book about it that’s in the library?
Do you agree with Cassel when he says, “All friendships are negotiations of power"? What do you think he means?
What do you think about what Cassel has to say about the unreliability of memory?
When are the only times that Cassel says “he felt safe”?
What does Cassel discover on Barron’s laptop?
What does Cassel realize about Lila?
What are the four different kinds of memory curse?
What about the white cat’s eyes reminds Cassel of Lila?
What does Cassel mean when he says, “That’s something worth making me forget”?
Where does the term “worker” come from? Why is curse work legal in Australia?
What kind of worker does Cassel realize he is? How does he feel about it?
Why do Anton, Barron, and Philip want Cassel to turn Zacharov’s heart to stone?
What happens when Cassel touches the gun?
Why doesn’t Lila want anyone to know about her return? Why doesn’t she want her father to know what happened to her?
What was Barron’s excuse for wanting to get rid of Lila?
How did Cassel’s brothers use him to get rid of people?
Why is Barron envious of Cassel?
What does Cassel know about the Resurrection Diamond?
Post Reading Activities
In her acknowledgements, Holly Black cites Simon Lovell’s How to Cheat at Everything as a book she researched to write this story. Have readers visit Lovell’s website www.simonlovell.com/. There are links to interviews and clips of television appearances in which Lovell discusses his life as a con man.
Ask readers to use print and electronic resources to research dream symbolism and to see if they can locate any mention of the significance of white cats in dreams. When they have completed their research, have readers share their findings.
About Red Glove
Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe’s world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else. That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she’s human again, he should be overjoyed. The trouble is that Lila’s now been cursed to love him. And if Lila’s love is as phony as Cassel’s made-up memories, he can't believe anything she says or does. When Cassel’s oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help solve the crime. But the mob is after him too, knowing how valuable he could be. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can’t trust anyone, least of all himself?
Ask readers to work in pairs and use print and electronic resources to research a famous con man or woman. One book readers may find helpful is Chris Barton’s Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities (Dial, 2011). Ask readers to create and stage a hypothetical con themselves based on their findings.
Discussion Questions for Red Glove
What stories has Cassel’s mother been telling the girls who she hopes will make him forget Lila?
What makes Cassel realize his mother is right about guys wanting to be “knights in shining armor”?
Why does Cassel say that Lila’s feelings for him are a “perversion of love”?
What does Cassel think is hard about being a con artist?
What does it mean that Cassel tested positive as “hyperbathygammic”?
How is Philip killed?
What do Agents Hurt and Jones want from Cassel?
How does Cassel react to the revelation that Philip was an informant?
What do the agents say was Philip’s motive for informing? What is Cassel’s theory for why Philip turned informant? Which do you think is most plausible?
Why did Philip blame Cassel for making Maura leave town?
What does Agent Hurt say about the last person known to enter Philip’s apartment?
What does Zacharov say to make Cassel hate him more than ever?
Why does Zacharov invite Cassel to work for him?
Why does Cassel’s grandfather blame himself for Philip’s death?
What about the circumstances of Janssen’s death disturbs Cassel?
What is it like for Cassel to see people pulling off and discarding their gloves?
Why was Cassel afraid of Philip when he was alive?
What makes Cassel so certain that Lila did not kill Philip?
What does Cassel realize when he’s confronted with the reality that Lila will someday lead the Zacharov family?
What does Cassel find in his mother’s coat?
Why can’t Cassel allow himself to believe that Lila is not giving him any dreams?
What does Cassel experience as a cat?
What does Cassel want Daneca to do for him?
What does Cassel mean when he says Daneca was “trying to save me from myself”?
What does Cassel see when he removes Lila’s scarf? What is Cassel’s reaction to what he sees?
Lila’s last words to Cassel are “If you don't stay away from me, I'll make you sorry you were ever born.” Do you think Cassel will be able to stay away from Lila?
What do you think will happen in the next installment of The Curse Workers?
Post Reading Activity
Ask readers to locate at least three professional reviews of Red Glove and incorporate quotations, summarize, and paraphrase from them in their own critical assessment of the novel. Professional reviews are often posted on www.amazon.com. The school librarian should also be able to provide readers with professional reviews.
This guide was written by Edward T. Sullivan, a librarian and writer.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In Cassel Sharpe's alternate reality, Curse Workers have the power to alter emotions, grant you luck, break your leg, or even kill you with a single touch of their bare skin. Although 'working' was outlawed in the early 1920s, curse workers have continued to thrive outside of the law under the direction of mafia-like families of magical users. Cassel hails from a long and impressive line of curse workers and con artists. And while he's not a worker like his brothers Phillip and Barron, he can definitely claim the con artist status. But Cassel is going straight. While his mom serves time in jail, Cassel is attending an exclusive private school and trying to act normal - even if he does run a small-time betting ring to cover his daily expenses. Yet the perfect image he has so painstakingly constructed begins to crumble when Cassel begins dreaming about a white cat asking for his help and sleepwalking at school. Confused with the jumbled snatches of memory from his past and the various versions of truth his brothers offer in explanation for their increasingly odd behavior, Cassel finds himself deep in the tangled web of a mysterious conspiracy spanning years and involving every person he has ever loved. In White Cat, nothing is as it seems: from the 'public' image Cassel creates of himself, his relationship with his brothers and mom, or to his own perception of himself and his abilities. Compelling and gritty, Cassel finds truth spilling forward at the most unexpected moments from the unlikeliest of sources. I am utterly intrigued to discover where Holly Black will take the Sharpe brothers next. All three have this unique love/hate relationship with each other, tied up in knots alongside their conflicting loyalties and hopes for the future. Not to mention their own skewed perceptions of family and loyalty. It's some truly heady stuff. Then there's Cassel's grandpa who is decidedly old school but who everyone just sees as old. But wowza, the man is a killer. Literally. Although I do wish he wouldn't spend so much time being cryptic with Cassel - his insights could have saved him buckets of time. How could I not fall instantly in love with Cassel's profusion of con-man lingo and his obvious removal from anything remotely resembling a 'normal' relationship. Familial or friendly. In Cassel's world, a mother wouldn't hesitate to use her ability to manipulate her children's emotions or reward her kids for successfully pulling off a con. Heart-breaking but so incredibly engrossing. In this exceptionally character-driven novel, Holly Black has crafted a world so unlike any other YA book I've come across. White Cat is dark. Gritty. Intense. Just my kind of story.
The main character of Holly Black's new book is named Cassel Sharpe and he's a liar. At the beginning of the book and even as the plot progresses there is no other way to describe him. He belongs to a family of 'curse workers' who don't exactly care too much for the law, and neither does Cassel, who runs a betting pool at his boarding school. With this kind of main character you can expect a fun ride down dark alleyways and seedy places. Readers will definitely be able to appreciate the grifting and conning skills he is developing. However, if you're expecting the mysticism and eerie magic that permeated Black's other books, you better think again. Compared to her previous works such as Tithe and Valiant, this book seems to come in from left field, or right, or no field at all. As far as her writing goes, Black has seemed to deviate from a usual style that she had adopted to write Tithe, Valiant and Ironside (I have yet to read Poison Eaters.) to move in a different direction with a brand new first-person voice. While this adds a new element to the prose, I believe that it minimizes the magic that her previous works held, at least for me. Aside from this unfamiliar feeling and seemingly foreign territory, the main character's, Cassel Sharpe's, thoughts are entertaining and something that most teenagers can relate to. I found his character as well as other's to be interesting and Black did well to not reveal too much to quickly, or conceal the truth about some characters. It has to make the reader wander how the characters will develop over the series. Black is very skilled at dropping subtle hints in her stories, adding details that the writer may or may not notice which will impact the story later. Every writer who has more than just a basic, linear plot line will have these. In White Cat, Black played up the twists and turns but not unrealistically so. By page 100, I believed I knew exactly what was going to happen. I admit to being mistaken on a few accounts, but the rest was obvious to figure out (I won't reveal anything, don't worry.). I'm not sure if any readers felt the same way, but I wasn't cheated out of a good plot at all. The secret wasn't the story but how the characters coped with them. Black's prose has always been original and edgy in form which I think is what attracts readers, but with every young adult author trying their hand at darker prose and the vampire epidemic, it's hard to find two books that don't sound alike. I struggled to cope with how White Cat seemed to conform to this idea of teen-who-doesn't-fit-quite-right who turns out to be some kind of special thing. It's a proven formula. Make a teenager special and you'll give some hope to teenagers everywhere that they're special too. It's not a bad thing, but a very overused concept. ( Think of books like the Harry Potter series, The Demonata series, the Pendragon series and the Mortal Instruments trilogy.) This book follows that idea but Black presents the setting and characters in an original way. Though this may appear to be a negative review, it's not. I read White Cat in one night. As an ardent advocate for her books on the fey, I am a little biased in my opinion but I feel that this book deserves the attention of Holly Black fans everywhere. It's a perfectly fine book for a rainy afternoon and you just want to watch a teenage boy dupe some people with some pretty impressive grifts.
This book is like an addictive drug. I cannot tell you how much i want there to be a ten zillion stars button. Everyone should read this book! It is really hard not to be a total spoiler when you've read this book! READ
I was surprised how much I ended up liking this one. The cover was kinda cheesy and to be honest I wasn't expecting much from it, I was also totally thrown by Jessie Eisenberg being the narrator. But it all worked. I thought the whole idea of 'curse working' was very interesting, and they did a great job of filling you in on this world without it turning it into a long lecture. Although Cassel seems to think he's a bad guy, I actually really liked him. He has loose morals when it comes to cons and scams, but never consciously did anything that would really harm someone. And considering his background, that's saying a lot. Anyway, I tend to get annoyed with characters who are too goody-goody. But on the flip-side of goody-goody... uhg his family. Without any spoilers... UHG! And while he has his little scams, I was torn on where I wanted the story to go with regards to the mafia-esque group. He has strong connections to it but I almost wanted to be able to protect him from them, because they are some serious bad-guys. I'm always torn on the 'twists' issue. On the one hand, I am super proud of myself when I figure it out before hand... but than I think, but I shouldn't have been able to right? So I did see most of these surprises coming (except that last DOOZEY!), but it wasn't so obvious that I was entirely confident I had it all right.
i bought this book after hearing it mentioned in reviews associated with Cassandra Clare (my all-time fav!) I picked it up and was blown away with the awsome characters and amazing action. I felt for the characters and even laughed along with the book, something i dont do much. It was an amazing read with a just as good sequel.
simply amazing!there's so many twists and turns that it keeps u on the edge of ur seat! i definitely recommand it!!!
I love this book!! White Cat has such good characters, Cassel is such a good narrative voice. Even the characters, who are bad are made to be likeable. The whole cat concept blew my mind. You really have to pay attention to it. As for the tense you really don't notice it. The magic is really cool, and it seems real as its set in New Jersey but there's magic as if in the real world. Read it! Its excellent and a good story.
Before I bought this book, I read all the hype. The positive and negative reviews and decided to buy it. The beginning of the book was less than interesting, the only good thing about the book was that the main character was kind of likable. Other than that I had to force myself to continue. I was halfway through the book before I decided that I would finish it. I was so sure it would only get better and in the middle it was actually pleasurable. It was the last 50 pages or so that really disappointed me. The whole book he talks about how great a con artist he is and the rules to be a great con artist that he's learned. I was really ticked off when he continually did things that -to me- seemed to be the opposite of what he learned. First, he never knew when to back away from the con. Second, he continually thought he was smarter than everyone else. I understand that you have to be confident in yourself but it stupid to think you're the smartest person in the room. It makes you overly confident and that only leads to failure. Third, the main character became too pathetic and less likable. He seemed to think he was so smart while getting his butt kicked the entire time. The main character came up with and overly complicated answer to a situation that could have been dealt with much simpler. The ending was anticlimactic. I don't think I will be continuing this series.
First off, I want to give my props to Holly Black because White Cat was pure genuis. Cassel is the youngest in a family of workers struggling to fit in. Cassle starts to sleepwalk making thing dangerous for the facade he so perfectly perfected. He starts to notice that things aren't right with his memory. He is still haunted by the death of his best friend Lila. After a series of events and sneaking around, Cassel finally comes to the conculscion that someone is working him. Cassel, not a worker himself, has come to know the ways of working someone without magic. With Cassel quick wittiness and cunniness, Cassel begins to fit the pieces of the puzzle that has haunted him for years. With his friends, Sam and Daneca, the only people he can trust, Cassel begins to formulate the revenage on those who hurt and betrayed him. And what's worse? The people who hurt and betrayed him are the ones he trusted the most. The adventure of reading White Cat was absolutley astounding. I enjoyed every minute of reading it. Holly Black wrote such a great story with an awesome plotline. I have never read something so enticing, so exciting that I was giggling with giddiness while reading it. I loved how the story was something unique, nothing repeated like other books out there. This was a great read.
This was my first book by Holly Black but it definitely won't be my last. White Cat is an exciting read that you will not be able to put down until you hit the last page. Imagine living in a world where an ungloved hand is like holding a loaded gun. That is the world that Holly Black has created in her new series (The Curse Workers). Curse working is illegal and some may say that it is for good reason. Curse workers can change your emotions, your memories, your luck, and more with only the slightest touch of their hands. White Cat is the first in the series and follows Cassel Sharpe. Cassel comes from a family of curse workers; unfortunately he is a non curse worker. Cassel has learned to survive in their world by becoming a talented conman. He has come to love everything about the con until he starts to suspect that he is the one who has been conned all along. Three years ago Cassel murdered his best friend Lila. He can't remember the details of that night but he does remember standing over her dead body with the bloody knife in his hand. He is haunted by that night and what it means. The only way that he knows hoe to cope is to blend into the crown and be as "normal" as possible. His careful façade comes crashing down when he almost sleepwalks off the roof of his dorm following a white cat. Why is this white cat haunting his dreams? What is the cat trying to tell him? Sent home to deal with his sleepwalking problem, Cassel first objective is to get back to school and his routine (away from his family). Cassel knows that his brothers work people but waking up to their whispered conversation leads him to believe they are hiding something more. Cassel is determined to figure out what is going on. What are they up to? How is Cassel involved? Is everything that Cassel thinks he knows a lie? Could his whole life be a con? What really happened to Lila? Could she still be alive? Finding the answers to these questions will change everything...but will it be for the better. Talk about cliffhanger ending. All I am going to say is that I am very pissed at Cassel's mother. Very very pissed! I mean why does Cassel always get the shaft?! Read it and you will know what I mean. I can't wait for Red Glove which is due out May 2011. http://bringmeanotherbook.blogspot.com/
The story is a little complex from the start, and it was a little hard to get into without figuring out the facts first. After getting the story straight though, it's a very interesting concept and idea and thought this was definitely a different and unique read. Several characters are thrown at you, so keeping them in line is also a bit of a challenge but it's nothing to throw you off of your reading. The plot was really good and Cassel is the guy to cheer for. He's not your typical angsty teenager with a huge chip on his shoulder. Which is something I really did like. He's calm, cool, and collected, but also determined to figure out what's going on with his life and why he's been sleepwalking and having strange dreams. Another thing I loved about this book. No love triangles! it's about time! I've read countless of YA and it just seems standard to have a love triangle. You won't find one in this book. (Thankfully.) I really did like the idea of the curse workers being something akin to mafia crime families. That was certainly different and an idea I have not come across before. It did fit in nicely with the overall plot. Plus the scheming, plotting, and conning made it even better. Following Cassel through the hurdles provided a really good read, and towards the end you'd think everything would go well. Until there's a giant twist and the ends in a cliffhanger ending. However that seems to be the constant theme throughout the novel as Cassel starts to put the pieces together and as the twists get bigger, the plot takes several shocking spins. It made reading the book really exciting and made the pace go fast. If you love scheming, shocking twists, and con artistry at its finest, pick this book up. It's a perfect blend of magic, and mafia crime families in one nice package. Combine this with fabulous writing and it's an excellent book to read through. Can't wait to read the second book of this series!
Holy smokes, there was a lot to digest in WHITE CAT - and the ending, dear Readers, is one surprise of the bittersweet sort! Betrayal, con artists, quirky friends, mysterious cat - Holly Black has the recipe to keep us in awesome suspense! I got a little confused about the curse-working, but I think that it's starting to make sense now. Definitely keeping an eye out for RED GLOVE when it comes out!
This book was a refreshing read for the teen lit paranormal genre. So many books are only about falling in love, and reading about a male protagonist's search for his identity was a nice change of pace. Author Holly Black writes a very convincing world where magic exists through a finger's touch. The book's lead, Cassel, finds himself embroiled in his family's drama through no real fault of his own. They're a family of con artists, so the book abounds with twists and turns. Once I picked this book up I had a hard time putting it down. I'm very much looking forward to the second book in this series.
I started White Cat yesterday, and ended up finishing it in the same day. Though at some points (as others have said)the plot flows slower than you might want, Black makes up for that with a compelling narrative. Cassel is an intriguing main character, and has a wit like a razor blade. The book is both funny and sad in alternate parts, and I couldn't put it down. It would be good for those who have interest in organized crime as well as fantasy lovers.
I loved the story of the three Sharpe brothers and their grandfather. It's an intriguing world with a rivetting plotline. I loved the descriptions of the 'con' and what it means to be a scam artist!
I am extremely divided on what I think of this book, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt since it is only the first in the series. I found it to be a great new idea that I loved reading, and the only issue I had with it was where it left us at the end. I'll certainly pick up the next book in the series just to see where it goes.
I loved the whole idea of being a curse worker. This book was so creative a great change from all the vampire and fallen angel books I've been reading lately. This book is fast-paced and the twist in it I did not see coming. I loved how it wasn't predictable.
I thought at the beginning of this book it was a little confusing, but after a few chapters I started really liking it. I guess I didn't know much since I have never even heard of the word curse worker, but wow! Holly Black has some out standing ideas! The characters were fantastic, but it was also very shocking. Just gets to show you, never to outcon a conman.
This book was excellent. The start was a little slow but once everything started to unravel that's when it got really good. I can't wait for the next one and see what adventures Cassel has in store.
Cassel is in a family that is all curse workers, but he himself isn't one. Even though he was raised a criminal, he wants a normal life. But after one episode of sleeping on the roof of his dorm, he's kicked out of school on temporally leave. He spends more time with his worker brothers and grandfather and starts to think about the death of Lila, a girl he killed three years ago when a white cat shows up in life and in his dreams. Cassel starts to think that he is being worked and tries to figure out by whom. Great read, loved every minute of it. The Curse Workers is going to be such a good new and inventive series. Can't wait to find out what happens next.
from the first page to the last i was breathless and couldn't wait to turn the page. i had to keep reading until i was done. the plot is genius, the characters are realistic. the story unfolds perfectly. The ending practically made me scream, ill be first in line to buy the sequel!
This book was absolutely amazing! Lots of suspense and plot twists that you didn't expect. The writing was well done, the characters unique, the plot interesting. It was definitely different from the normal. A very good book that I definitely recommend.
At first this book didn't capture my attention. Events and personalities seemed slow to advance. However, by the middle of the book, it really started to interest me. By the end, the slight twists the book gave were fun to read. The last twist, was the one that made me feel sorry and hopeful for Cassel as well as looking forward to the next installment to this series. Oh, and don't worry about that last statement. It isn't a cliffhanger, but it does set things up nicely for the next book. Cassel believes that he is a horrible person because he killed his best friend. He has no memory about the incident except for standing over her body with a bloody knife and a self-satisfied smile. His family life isn't normal by anyone's standards, even those of the local mob in charge of most of the workers in the city. So what does anyone with these problems do? Try to act and become as normal as possible and blend in with the mass of kids at his new school. The story really starts to take off when he starts checking up on his brothers. The mystery that unfolds when this happens really is the heart of the book. This is where he starts to learn who he is, what has happened to everyone and who he can trust. All things are a huge leap for a boy used to staying in the shadows. I gave this story 4 stars. It is a good read and I'm looking forward to the next story in this series. The book will be published in May of this year. Not too much longer to wait!
In a world where mobster families practice dark magic, Cassel feels left out as the only one in his dysfunctional family who has no magic powers. He compensates with his abilities to con and lie much like the rest of the family. As if normal teen angst weren't bad enough, he is haunted by the horrific death of a friend and struggles to remember how she died. When he dreams of a white cat talking to him and wakes up sleepwalking on the roof of his prep school dorm, his life spins out of control. Holly Black's fairy tale trilogy, Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside, are among my favorite fantasy novels. While not about fairies, this is another urban fantasy by Holly Black, one that will keep you up all night reading to the end, as the plot twists and turns and Cassel learns disturbing things about himself and about his family. The world of curse worker mobsters is a highly original conception. The novel itself is excellent, but the cover art is yet another example, along with Justine Larbalestier's Liar and Jaclyn Dolamore's Magic Under Glass, of YA cover art whitewashing. Cassel has black hair, black eyes, and tan skin, yet the boy on the front cover has auburn hair and very pale skin. The continued racism in the publishing industry, which believes that featuring white people on the front cover will sell more copies, is a disgrace.
Holly Black is an amazing writer, she can't go wrong. I can't wait for this book!