So here we are, reviewing another popular book by another popular author, and we were a little nervous. Those don't usually tend to work out well, at least for us. Still, we'd heard good things about White Cat, so we were excited to be able to borrow a copy from a friend of ours. This is the first full novel by Holly Black that we've read (although Cyna had quite liked her short story collection The Poison Eaters), and our honest opinion is...we thoroughly enjoyed it. Holly Black is one of the rare YA authors who manages to successfully create a compelling story, well developed characters,and a unique world, with some of the best writing we've seen in a long time. Sometimes the book really lives up to the hype and White Cat is one of those books.
Holly Black's writing style was so refreshing. While other authors haven't seemed to grasp the concept of show-not-tell, Holly Black does, and very well. There is very little exposition - almost everything you learn about the characters, world, and backstory comes from Cassel's - our hero's - flashbacks, dreams, or little observations. For example, the first time we're introduced to Cassel's friend Daneca, he mentions patches on her backpack that identify her as a vegan and activist, but never says that outright. It seems like a small thing, but it's hugely indicative of this character's personality, and you understand what sort of person she is just from one little observation. It's nice, especially when you consider that most other authors would have just said something along the lines of "And then my vegan activist friend walked over." But that is White Cat - shown, maybe almost to a fault.
That's probably the only downside of Black's writing - you have to really like those character-developing detours, because there are a lot of them. We can see how other readers might find them irritating, but to us, every flashback was fascinating, no matter how irrelevant it seemed at the time.
The pacing was fantastic as well. You begin the book totally in the dark about everything - the way Black's world works, Cassel's family, and the mystery surrounding his past and sleepwalking. But every chapter of the first half of White Cat gives you bits and pieces of the big picture, while keeping you wanting more. The trouble with that is that by the time you hit the halfway point, you have a pretty good idea of what's going on, and it takes Cassel himself quite a bit longer to figure it out. But it's not too huge an issue - by the time the reader and Cassel sync up again, the book shifts its focus to resolving the plot. And for that, you just have to enjoy the ride, because there is no way you're going to keep up with Cassel's Ocean's Eleven-style scheme, and the back-stabbing and double-crossing that follows. Well, schemes, plural. There is more than one, and most of the time, things don't exactly go according to plan, but that's awesome. It's nice to see that, like in real life, Murphy's Law can apply, and it's interesting to watch the characters scramble to recover.
The world that Holly Black has created for White Cat is pretty damn awesome, too...
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