Red Glove (The Curse Workers, Book Two) by Holly Black. Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. 2011. Reviewed from ARC from publisher. Sequel to White Cat, which you really should read first.
The Plot: For most high school seniors, the big question is what elite college to go to and what to do with their lives. For Cassel, it’s juggling magic and his family (the good news is his mother is out of jail, the bad news is she’s back to her old cons). As a curse worker, he is presented with two unique opportunities: work for the mob, like most of his family has done; or work for the Feds, using his talents to track criminals. Cassel would never turn against his family and friends and work for the Feds — until they show him the photo of his older brother, in a pool of blood.
The Good: This is book two of The Curse Workers series, and you really should read White Cat first. Red Glove continues all the goodness found in White Cat: family, friends, short and long cons, loyalty, mystery. Cassel remains one step ahead of the reader, and in many ways the reader is the “mark,” the subject of Cassel’s cons. Will the reader believe Cassel? Know what Cassel is doing? Or be shocked by what Cassel ends up doing? And — like in White Cat — will the reader end up being as surprised as Cassel about where Red Glove leads?
Red Glove digs deeper into the shady world where Cassel lives, exploring more layers and facets. He’s been raised to trust family and criminals, not friends and outsiders. The events of the past year left him distant from his brothers; it also brought his mother back into his life. She’s returned to her old ways, using her ability to manipulate and control emotions to target rich, old men. The reader also learns more about curse workers, the laws against them, and how those laws and discrimination led to the power of the crime families. Where does Cassel’s loyalties lie? Is it to his family and the person he was raised to be?
Cassel and Lila, the two teens raised in a world where the mob is a way of life and lies and curses are the norm, are both fascinating characters. They are street smart and Cassel’s ability to plot and scheme is impressive. At the same time, neither are perfect. Cassel, for all his planning, makes mistakes. He is, for the first time, making friends and turning to them instead of family. But family – including the crime family led by Lila’s father – won’t let him go. His brother’s death tears him apart; who would want him dead? Well, other than Cassel. And Lila — yes, Cassel knew her as his best friend from childhood. But who is she now? What is she capable of?
I had the pleasure of reading White Cat and Red Glove back to back, and I can’t wait for the third book. The world Black has created, and the characters within it, are complex and fascinating and a little bit (um, no a lot) scary. There is humor, warmth, and love in these books, but there is also darkness. One reason I’m looking forward to the next book is I want to see just how far Black will explore the darkness of Cassel’s world.
Final thing I love about this series: the writing. There are so many asides and observations that left me chuckling and reaching for a post it to mark the page. Here is Grandad, talking about magic: “magic gives you a lot of choices. Most of them are bad.” Cassel, on his mother’s dramatics at his brother’s funeral: “Mom’s putting on a show, but that doesn’t mean she’s not actually sad. It’s just that she isn’t letting her grief get in the way of her performance.”
And yes, both books in this series are in my Favorite Books Read in 2011.