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This is the sequel to White Cat, and you should really read that one first.

These are a fascinating combination of boarding school book and fantasy noir, twisty and full of moral ambiguity and double-crosses. They take place in a world where a not insignificant percentage of the population has the ability to curse other people through the touch of a hand-- unsurprisingly, being seen without gloves is in some ways worse than being seen naked. Curse workers face discrimination on legal and societal levels and are heavily concentrated in criminal organizations and Mafia families as a result.

Cassel, the protagonist, comes from a family who are not quite entirely Mafia (though not quite entirely not), a group of professional con men and grifters. His mother, for example, is an emotion worker, who can make anyone feel what she wants them to feel, and as a result almost never pays her own way anywhere. Cassel is in a complex situation involving the general amorality of his family, the general ubiquity of the Mafia, and the to-him unusual fact that he has real friends in high school for the first time ever. Also, things about his life have attracted the interest of the federal government. I would not dream of telling you anything about the plot, except to say that this is one of those books where the ramifications of things that happened in the first book are fully gone into and explored and taken seriously, which is awesome because the nature of those things was such that that needed to happen.

The first one was actually based somewhat on the fairy tale of the White Cat, but if this one is based on a specific fairy tale I have yet to identify it, although I note that Cassel is the youngest of three brothers and therefore metaphysically Most Likely To Succeed, which does I think show.

There is one way in which this series is a little odd for me to read, because one of the principal characters shares my first name, and it's an unusual first name, so I have not had the opportunities to get used to that that people do who have common ones; this is in fact the character I've run into in fiction with my name who has the most pagetime, and also the only one who isn't some kind of succubus or sex android. So it feels weird, though of course I am not letting it stop me.

Seriously, read these. This is some of the best work going on in YA today, although I have trouble thinking of it as YA-- it's YA the same way that, say, Megan Whalen Turner is, where at least one bookstore I know of shelves copies of the Attolia books in both adult and teen sections.

Because this only just came out, please indicate in comment titles if you intend to put spoilers in a comment. I've been trying not to spoil the first one in this review, either, which isn't easy, so warning for that in comments would be nice of you but I don't require it.


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