Book Review by Debbie Winkler
Target Age Group: young adult
My Rating: 4/5 stars
*Received for Free for Review Purposes
Cassel Sharpe has always felt like an outsider. He is the only one in his mafia-connected, worker family who is not a worker. He is not rich enough to really belong at his boarding school, Wallingford, but his fellow students tolerate him as their local bookie. Oh, and he killed his best friend, Lila, a few years ago. Cassel does his absolute best to fit in and to pretend that everything is normal, but when he is stranded on the roof of his school after another sleepwalking episode, his whole fabricated life begins to unravel. Kicked out of school, Cassel goes back to live with his dysfunctional family: his mother, an emotion worker who can make you feel anything with a single touch, who is jail; his oldest brother, Philip, who uses his worker skills to break kneecaps and enforce for the local crime family; his other brother, Barron, a memory worker who can make you forget or make you believe a fake memory; and his grandfather, a death worker who can kill with a touch. As Cassel spends more time with them, he comes to realize that he is in the middle of one of the biggest cons of his life. Now, if only Cassel could remember…
This is an intense and interesting book, but I would not say that it is particularly likeable. I had a difficult time relating to the main characters in the book, but the world they were in was so captivating that I could not put this book down! Cassel is kind of different and is hard to get a bead on. I was never quite sure what he was going to do or why. As the book continues, it is pretty obvious why Cassel is so weird and that he is really doing quite well all things considered. The secondary characters are not fully fleshed out in this book, but I thought this was a good choice by Black as teenagers are usually obsessed with what is going on in their immediate sphere and do not really think about or relate to others, especially older family members. I anticipate that many of the characters will be coming back in the next book in the series and that I will get to know them better then.
Holly Black has created a very approachable, familiar world with a twist in this book. The world is almost as we know it, with one small change – workers. Workers are people born with special skills and can give you luck, death, dreams, pain, transformation, memories, etc. These emotions are given to you by touch so everyone wears gloves to try and protect themselves. Charms are available to try and protect yourself, but a really powerful worker will find a way to get to you regardless and can break your charms if they keep “working” you. Working people is considered illegal and so workers are pushed to the fringes of society and usually work for powerful, mafia-like families. Of course, there is litigation trying to force workers to be listed by the government, make them legal, test everyone and label them, etc., but no one is able to come up with a good solution. There are so many storyline opportunities that Black has created with making some small changes in our everyday lives. I love that Black kept her changes simple, as the reader is able to dive right into the story without spending a lot of time setting up a different fantasy world.
The main drawback of the book is that many of the plot twists are super obvious. Well, I thought they were really obvious anyway. I won’t tell you what they are here in case they come as a surprise to you, but it is not difficult to figure out what is going to happen in the book. Of course, you are not really sure how Cassel is going to accomplish anything and he has a tendency to do the complete opposite of what you would think he would do, so there are still surprises inside the book! This book is well-written, intriguing and fast paced. I was able to easily finish it in a day and cannot wait to see what is going to happen in the next book!
This book contains underage drinking, drug usage, some sexual references, mild language, violence, death, torture, assassinations, using magical powers for evil purposes, crime families, and some other mature themes. Recommended for ages 14 and up.