Ever since I read The Poison Eaters, I’ve been debating with myself whether or not I should reread White Cat. Like The Poison Eaters, it was one of THE books of my early teenage years. Part of me needs to know how I feel about it now, and part of me wants to put the series somewhere I won’t be able to easily get to them, so I won’t ever try to read them. After reorganizing my bookshelves recently, part of me felt like I could easily binge read the series and just get it over with. The other part of me knows that there is no good way for that to end and really doesn’t want to do that. My compromise was to read this book, so I could give another Holly Black book a chance, but hopefully not ruin the memories of my early teenage years.
For some reason, even though I’ve owned this book for a long time, it’s never really caught my interest. A friend who’s read it told me there were fairy drugs in it, and I feel like that should have caught the interest of thirteen year old me, but, for some reason, even during my obsessive Holly Black phase, I never picked this one up.
I actually liked this one. I honestly didn’t expect to, and I have no idea what it is about this one that’s so different than Tithe or The Poison Eaters, but I actually really enjoyed it.
One possible point of contention with my thinking on this book that might be weird is that I’ve decided to consider it a standalone. I also plan to recommend it to people as a standalone, and I’ll probably suggest to them that they shouldn’t read the other books in this series. If you read the first book, you’ll have some backstory about the different fairy courts, and there are a couple characters from the first book that show up at the end of this one, but it’s not like there are things you would only get if you had read the first book. To me, one of the most important things in a book is the backstory, but, in this case, I think reading an entire book just to get backstory for two chapters is ridiculous. This book is significantly better than Tithe, and I may even go so far as to say that it should have been a standalone and that the other books in the series shouldn’t have been published. I’m not saying that that’s definitely what I think, I’m just saying it’s a suggestion for how I might think hypothetically.
I think that this book is a lot more character driven than Tithe. The first hundred or so pages are mostly centered around the characters with not much plot happening. I tend to prefer character centered things, so this was preferable to something focused on plot or worldbuilding. I actually started liking it a little less whenever it got into more plot related things and when the characters actually started doing a lot of things. I would have been more than content to read three hundred thirteen pages about these teenagers hanging out in an abandoned train station and taking fairy drugs because they were just interesting people to read about. I definitely wouldn’t want to know these people, and I think the only character I would possibly get along with from this is Ruth, but, even though they weren’t relatable to me, and even though a lot of them weren’t very likable, they were very real and very interesting. I know that the events in this book aren’t realistic, and a lot of teenagers who run away don’t get this kind of happy ending (and none of them get literal troll boyfriends), but their personalities and their interactions are the kinds of things you would actually see. These characters aren’t black and white, good or evil beings, they’re complex, and they’ve been through horrible things. Even though I wouldn’t voluntarily spend time with anyone like any of the characters, it wouldn’t be hard to find someone like them.
I think that the characters in this really carry the story. Like the other Holly Black books I’ve read, this one doesn’t have that much worldbuilding. There aren’t descriptions of what the places look like, and, even though I feel like I could picture it, it’s all ideas I’m assuming about what the places are like. My idea of what it looks like is a mixture of places in the city I live close to and pictures of cities from tumblr aesthetic blogs. That’s probably not what New York looks like. But, even though there was a lack of worldbuilding and a plot I didn’t entirely like, the characters made it okay. If the characters had been irritating, maybe I wouldn’t have liked it. But, since the characters were interesting, it made me want to read it, and it made me overlook the things like lack of worldbuilding.
I have one spoilery complaint, so, in case you don’t want to read that, I’m just going to give my final rating of it now:
Four out of five stars.
And now the spoilery complaint.
My one big complaint about this book is the love story in it. I really enjoyed the book before the love story came in, and I think the love story took something away from the book instead of adding to it. I was hoping that there would be no hot, datable fairies in this book. For so long, it seemed that that would be the case. No such luck. In this book, we’ve branched out from hot fairies, and we now have hot trolls. I wish I was joking. Relationships between fairies and humans already irritate me, but this one was worse because the two of them had literally no connection. I kept expecting it to end horribly because it didn’t seem like a relationship that was written to be shipped. It almost seems like it was forced just so that there could be a relationship for the main character. In addition to that, I can’t stand the “I’m a monster!” “But I love you!” trope that seems so common in these fairy relationships. If I liked some guy and he told me with complete sincerity that he was a monster, I would run and not look back. You have no idea what someone means by that. Someone who’s just sort of insecure about their personality or something won’t say that they’re a monster. That seems like an indicator of something that will probably end very poorly. If a guy says he’s a monster, he’s either dangerous or an elf (or, apparently now, a troll), and I don’t understand why anyone would stick around to find out. And what kind of example does that set for young teenage girls who read these kind of books? Is it trying to say that if he’s a monster all he needs is love, and that you can fix him and his monstrous ways? Because that’s not healthy. I haven’t read a single book where the guy claims to be a monster and then the girl leaves because wow, that sounds like a lot, and she doesn’t want to have to deal with him or his mess. Wait, maybe Frankenstein but that’s sort of the point of that book. You can’t claim to write strong, independent women who end up just having to love the evil out of a man. That is just wrong. Women don’t exist only to help men work through their issues. We’re not free therapists. This trope needs to stop.
And don’t date trolls. They eat people. Honestly, I shouldn’t need to say this.