The novel takes place in an alternate reality where some people (known as Curseworkers) are born with special abilities that allow them to influence emotions, manipulate memories, control dreams, change luck, transform objects and people, and kill, all with a single touch. Cassel, the protagonist, feels like an outsider both in his family, because he's the only non-worker, and at his boarding school due to his family's involvement with organized crime. His attempts at fitting in at school are foiled when he begins having strange dreams about a white cat, which leads him to investigate the murder of his best friend, Lila, which he committed three years earlier.
There are a lot of things to praise about White Cat from the dark, timeless atmosphere, to the male-sounding protagonist, to Black's handling of issues of prejudice, to the three dimensional and varied characterization, to the romance, which was full of suspense and not completely obvious. It's also clear that Black did her research on organized crime and antisocial behavior. Either that or she was a con artist in a former life. I could spend pages gushing about all of these things, but instead I'll focus on what stood out for me most about this series, the magic system. I applaud Holly Black for creating consequences for using magic, and for making the severity of the consequences proportional to the magnitude of power and the frequency of use. This creates a realism that other stories with magic lack, and it avoids the world building issue faced by other authors of why the supernatural beings are marginalized.
I was really impressed by nearly ever aspect of this novel including world building, characterization, and plot. This is a series I'll definitely continue on with.