Title: Curse Workers #02: Red Glove
Author: Holly Black
Synopsis (Courtesy of Indiebound): “Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe’s world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.
That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she’s human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila’s been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila’s love is as phony as Cassel’s made-up memories, then he can’t believe anything she says or does.
When Cassel’s oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can’t trust anyone—least of all, himself?
Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.”
Thoughts: In this second of the Curse Workers’ series, Ms. Black picks up where she left off with Cassel’s story. His mom is most decidedly in the picture, while his relationship with his brothers is now more complicated than he ever thought possible. Let’s not even talk about his feelings for Lila, which have been ruined by his mother’s “gift”. In spite of his abilities, Cassel is still trying to be a normal teen in this most decidedly abnormal world of Ms. Black’s imagination.
Holly Black is a master at grabbing a reader’s attention and not letting go until the very end. She manages to pack in such ideas as tolerance, morality, peer pressure, and other teen dilemmas while exploring the seedy world of the workers, a world which Cassel manages to straddle without committing himself in either direction. Cassel is a character that maintains his innocence in spite of the world in which he was raised. This innocence helps him and yet hurts him as he struggles to make decisions that remain faithful to his family and to himself. In spite of this innocence though, Cassel is most decidedly a bad guy in the strictest sense of the word. He is not a boy you would want to bring home to your father, as he is always looking at the world as a con does a mark. This dichotomy makes for an interesting, if conflicted, main character.
The beauty about Red Glove is that Ms. Black plays so well in the gray area between right and wrong. Humans are never as white and black as one would like, and Cassel and Lila are reminders of this. These are not good people, no matter how much the reader might like Cassel or adore Lila. These are people who take advantage of and even harm others. It is a testament to Ms. Black’s writing that she can get her audience to care about such characters as much as the reader cares about Cassel and Lila.
Red Glove sets up the third novel in the Curse Workers’ series quite nicely, with some surprising twists that will make for an interesting future for Cassel in his effort to keep his family and friends safe. Engaging and fun while remaining dark and twisted, Red Glove highlights Ms. Black’s skill at creating and writing such subtly macabre worlds. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite YA authors of all time.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster for my galley copy!