Bringing the readers back into the deliciously dark realm of mobsters, magic, curses, and cons, Holly Black once again proves that she is an inimitable wizard of words in the second installment of her Curse Worker’s trilogy, Red Glove. With a plot that never quits, wonderfully complex characters, and a setting that is strikingly familiar yet eerily different from our own, this book presents a kind of urban fantasy that noir fiction lovers will devour.
In Black’s world there are hyperbathygammic people, or “workers” who can do magic with just the mere brush of their fingers. One in a thousand can be a worker and their specialties can be one of the seven: memory, dream, luck, physical, emotion, death, and transformation. Because of these, hands are treated like weapons, and anyone who doesn’t wear gloves is deemed dangerous.
Cassel Sharpe, the main character, learns in White Cat that he is a worker of the rarest kind. But discoveries like this—coupled with being surrounded by meddlesome and deceitful relatives—do not produce neat results. He cannot trust his family anymore, and because of that he becomes a walking dichotomy of equal parts vengeance and remorse. One of his brothers was killed and the dominant feeling he has is relief. One minute he’s ecstatic for finding out that the girl she’s smitten with miraculously returns his affections; the next he’s devastated because he discovers that someone else aside from Cupid tampered with her emotions. As if matters are not chaotic enough, a couple of FBI agents appear, believing that Cassel can help them solve his brother’s murder case by looking into the only clue left at the crime scene: images of a woman in red gloves. That’s about the same time a leader of a big-time crime family is courting for his service, knowing what Cassel can do with his magic.
Cassel has to be careful in every step he takes in the minefield of choices presented to him by the mob and the government. One misstep and everything will blow up.
Smart and suspenseful, I love this book as much as I did White Cat. The thrill is undiminished, and I think the murder mystery at its core is responsible for this. The twists and turns of the plot are as shocking as ever; with the first class cons that Cassel pulled off in the first book, I didn’t expect him to be able to do something of that caliber again. Apparently I was wrong. XD Also we see how Cassel grows up into a more mature character. He is surrounded by people egging him to be a bad criminal that he should be, but he keeps on clinging on to the “good side”, willing to do the right thing even if it costs him everything. The best example of this is when didn’t opt to take advantage of Lilia’s love-cursed state even if he does love her so much. Instead he evades her, waiting for the magic to subside. Cassel is also working on his antisocial attitude—slowly but surely, he is becoming more open to his friends.
What I find the most interesting in this novel is the role of politics in it. The topic has been raised in White Cat and I’m glad Black decides to further explore it. Workers are often considered the society’s misfits/freaks, but the government knows how to pull the strings in order to use the workers to their own ends. There are worker rights fighters of course, and the clash of opinions is profoundly exciting. :p
Needless to say, I’m excited for the final installment, Black Heart.