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Literature / The Curse Workers

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"No-one at home is ever going to forget that Cassel is a killer. No-one at home is ever going to forget that he isn’t a magic worker. And now he is being haunted by a white cat."

A series of YA novels by Holly Black. It includes White Catnote , Red Glove and Black Heart. The audio book of White Cat is read by Jesse Eisenberg.

This series contains examples of:

  • Awesome Mc Coolname - Cassel and Barron, in comparison with their older brother Phillip. Justified in that their father named Phillip, while their mom had creative control of the others.
  • Ban on Magic - Magic has been illegal in the US since the 1930s. As with Prohibition, this lead to the rise of criminal syndicates built around an underground trade in magical services and the use of magic to aid in various criminal enterprises.
  • Being Evil Sucks - Growing up in the mob, being a con artist and being a secret assassin have led to Cassel being ridden with self-loathing and paranoia.
  • Blessed with Suck - All workers have blowback to varying extents, some of which can be crippling or even fatal. Having powers is as dangerous to the owner as it is to everyone else.
  • Cast From Hit Points - Death work blowback withers a part of the worker's own body; physical work blowback makes the worker feel weak and sick.
  • Conspicuous Gloves: As the powers can only have an effect through skin-to-skin contact, everyone in this world wears gloves.
  • Consummate Liar - Barron. For good reason.
  • Demoted Memories - In Red Glove, Cassel realizes that something he remembers as a scene from a movie is an actual memory that Barron tampered with.
  • Differently Powered Individual: People with magical powers are commonly called "curse workers" or simply "workers"; the Technobabble term is "hyperbathygammic" or "HBG". "Heebiejeebies" is a somewhat derogatory term derived from the latter. Archaic terms include "theurgists" and "dab hands".
  • Empathic Healer - Physical workers can heal injuries and cure or mitigate diseases, but the blowback makes them weak and sick.
  • Evil Parents Want Good Kids - Cassel's grandfather laments not having kept his daughter out of the mob. By contrast, said daughter actively worked (in every relevant sense of the word) to initiate her own sons into the life.
  • Fantastic Racism: The general public fears workers due to their power and the strong connection between magic and organized crime, to the point that everyone takes it as a given that the mandatory hyperbathygammic testing law, if passed, would lead to workers being denied jobs and housing.
  • For Your Own Good - Everyone who was involved in hiding Cassel's power and assassination history from him insists that they did it to protect him.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler - If you happen to read the dust-jacket to Red Glove before White Cat you're treated to the entire plot of the first book.
  • Lethal Harmless Powers - Dream working sounds perfectly benign, but it can easily be used to cause someone to sleepwalk off a roof.
  • Missing Mom - Subverted. Cassel's mom is absent for most of White Cat, due to being in prison. It doesn't seem to change her relationship with her children and she is out of prison at the end of White Cat and in Red Glove.
  • Nightmare of Normality: The big twist of White Cat is that Cassel isn't the token muggle of the family after all: he's actually a transformation worker, and has been brainwashed by his brothers into forgetting his powers - except on occasions when they need an assassin who can effectively kill people without leaving any kind of evidence. As such, reclaiming his powers and saving one of his past victims forms a major part of the story from then on.
  • Our Nudity Is Different - In the US, at least, the custom of wearing gloves to prevent surreptitious magic has been in place for so long that bare hands have become mysterious and titillating.
  • Plagued by Nightmares: Nightmares about killing Lila haunt Cassel through half the first book until he discovers that he didn't kill her.
  • Power Limiter - Magic can only be used via skin to skin contact with the magic users hand and another person. Naturally everyone wears gloves to safeguard against this.
  • Rule of Seven - Seven types of magic.
  • Soapbox Sadie - Daneca Wasserman, who proudly displays buttons expressing her feelings on various causes on her bag, leads the Wallingford branch of a worker rights youth group, and scolds Cassel for his indifference to politics.
  • Violin Scam - Cassel needs to get a cat out of a shelter. He's under 18 and can't just adopt it, so his friend comes into the shelter claiming her expensive white cat is lost and offering a huge reward. Cassel then goes in and claims he has the missing cat, but will need a white cat for his little sister as a replacement. The shelter worker, thinking of the huge reward, is willing to skip the background check and give Cassel the cat, expecting Cassel to return later with the "missing" cat.

Alternative Title(s): White Cat


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