Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts 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, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.
Holly Black has created a gripping tale of mobsters and dark magic where a single touch can bring love -- or death -- and your dreams might be more real than your memories.(Summary From Goodreads)
WOW! This was such a great book! I haven't read any of Holly Black's other books. They are waiting patiently in my TBR stack. They'll be moving to the top. But the ideas in this book are totally original and mind blowing.
The first page of the book, first paragraph hooks you. "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." Now, if a boy sleep walking climbing to the peak of a roof in the cold, obviously barefoot doesn't get your attention, I don't know what will. It sure gets the school's attention and he's suspended. They don't want the liability. They think he was trying to kill himself, though he is the one that called for help.
That's how we meet Cassel Sharpe on the roof of his dorm trying to figure out how to get down without calling for help. He comes from a family of workers, though he himself is not a worker. Workers are people with talents that vary from being able to give people luck to killing them with a simple touch of their fingers. That's why everyone wears gloves. Cassel is trying to fit in, yet he doesn't know how to be normal, so he does what he sees other people do. Except he had to run the con. He's a bookie. But that seems to make him more popular than not.
Cassel's family is and odd assortment of characters. His oldest brother Phillip is married and has a son. He thinks Phillip is a body worker, a touch of a bare finger can break something and knows he works for one of the biggest crime families on the East coast. Eventually most of the workers do end up working for the crime families because no one else wants them. Cassel's father is dead. If it was mentioned how, I don't remember. His mother is in jail for working a millionaire, making him believe he loved her and giving her thousands of dollars. She got caught but her case is up for appeal. His middle brother Barron is a memory worker and is going to Law school at Princeton. And his Granddad lives in Carney. He was a deathworker. One touch from him and you're dead. But, there are repercussions from curse work. Something called blowback, sort of like instant karma, and Granddad's fingers are almost all dead, blackened and rotted. But his gloves hide it.
Cassel and his Granddad , after Cassel is suspended, go to his family home and clean it out. It sounds like the worst case of Hoarders from t.v. Apparently nothing has ever been thrown away. It takes days to clean everything out. In the meantime, Cassel is still sleep walking and seeing a white cat in all his dreams. The same one that is living in the barn behind his house. Cassel starts to mistrust his brothers but doesn't know which one is using him and begins to doubt himself and his memories. He still dreams and thinks the white cat has something to do with his sleep walking. He is haunted by the grin he had on his face when he killed Lila. Then he visits Barron's apartment and sees all the reminders of his memories, the blowback from memory work is losing your own memories. Cassel gets charms against losing his memory, just in case and puts them someplace they aren't easily discovered. When he begins to unravel the truth he finds out the horror of what's been really going on. He also finds he actually has friends he can count on when he needs them. He has to work with them to pull the biggest con yet. But the final pages tell the real truth about the con.
The story is told in first person from Cassel's point of view. He's so likable and tragic. I just wanted to hold him, as a mom, and tell him everything would be okay, that all was forgiven. His mom, though she really seems to love him, doesn't seem to be that type. She gives him a gift he'd rather not have. It's heartbreaking when he finds out. She belongs in jail in my opinion.
Phillip and Barron are thoroughly unlikeable. They are detestable. You don't know much about them, except Phillip is working his own wife. Enough said. I don't know how or why, but Cassel overhears his Granddad and Phillip talking about it.
Granddad is the only one that seems to have Cassel's best interest at heart, but he's only partly in on things so he can only help so far. And Cassel is so confused, he doesn't know who to trust.
It is a great read, maybe a little slow in the beginning, but once it speeds up, you won't be able to put it down. The world Holly Black created of Curse Workers is so creative, the idea that everyone has to wear gloves and there's legislation being put to vote that everyone has to be tested to see if they are a worker, but the government won't use the information. Even we know that isn't true. I can't wait for the next book in the series.
Heather in not so sunny Sandwich