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The Haunting of Hill House
Shirley Jackson, Laura Miller
The Mirror Empire
Kameron Hurley
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Jack Weatherford

White Cat

White Cat - Holly Black Let me be clear on one thing: if I were 12, this book would easily have been a four-star contender. Unfortunately, I haven't been for some time, and White Cat suffers some for the aging. Plot twists that would have delighted me as a kid were too bluntly telegraphed for an adult, and I spent an awful lot of pages wanting to smack the protagonist for missing the obvious. In other books, this wouldn't have bothered me as much, but when your main themes are con artistry and the unreliable nature of memory, I expect a plot structure that's elegant and clever and keeps me guessing, perhaps with a consciously unreliable narrator.

Happily, White Cat makes up for any weakness in plotting with excellent characterization--even the minor characters came across as well-drawn to me, with the lone exception of the paper-thin villain--and a solidly conceived and delicately revealed alternate history. The recurring motif of gloves was an especially effective device for reminding the reader of just how Other the world of White Cat is whenever the mentions of YouTube and cell phones and political lobbying started to make it seem too familiar.

Whether it's the blowback from death work, the long-term effects of memory work, or the use of emotion work to forcibly create a loving family, White Cat also does a good job making its magic genuinely creepy. Logically, there are some parts of the system that don't make sense to me--just why are cursing someone with physical injury and cursing someone to death entirely separate branches of magic?--but emotionally, it works. It feels, well, magical: rich and strange, mesmerizing and terrifying.

The world of White Cat isn't one I'd want to live in, but I'm looking forward to further glimpses of it. Pity we've got such a long wait for Red Glove!