Friday, 7 March 2014

Red Glove (Curse Workers #2) by Holly Black

Publication date: 5th April 2011
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genre: Crime mystery/Fantasy (YA)

Caution: contains spoilers from Book 1 (White Cat)

My Synopsis
Red Glove is the second book to the Curse Workers series by Holly Black.  It follows on from the first novel, White Cat

At the end of the first novel Cassel Sharpe transformed Lila Zacharov back to her human form.  Lila is the love of his life but she always preferred his older brother, Baron.  To Cassel's horror his mother curses Lila to love him, which means all expressions of love on her part aren't real - ruining his chances of a genuine relationship with her.

At the start of Red Glove, Cassel is told that his oldest brother, Philip, has been killed.  Philip had been working for the Zacharov family, the mob leaders, but was forced to betray them and become an informant for the FBI.  It would seem someone found out and murdered him.

Cassel attends Philip's funeral with the moral support of his friends Sam and Daneca.  He confides as much as he can to them and they begin to investigate Philip's murder.  Soon after, Cassel is approached by Lila's father, the head of the mob, and is offered a job.  In return Zacharov offers him and his family protection.  He is also approached by the FBI who try to entice him to join them, offering to recruit him as a trainee agent after graduation.   He does not commit to either but keeps either side appeased by appearing to help them both. He will have to pick a side soon and time is running out.

In the meantime, Cassel's mother is out of prison and has resumed her career as a con artist.  She has identified a new mark - a high profile politician who is anti-curse workers and is rallying to pass a bill that would further limit their human rights and freedom. 

Cassel attempts to solve the mystery of his brother's murder, maintain a relationship with Lila while deflecting her advances, keep his troublesome family members out of trouble and his darkest secrets from his friends...

My Review
This is yet another excellent novel by Holly Black and a fantastic follow-up to White Cat.  As always with her work, it is intelligently written and never boring.  I like the cross-over of genres from fantasy into crime mystery territory.

The subplot that focuses on the relationship between Cassel and Lila is original and very well executed.  Most of us would agree that it can get boring fast if the 'lovers' of a novel come together too early in the story and irritating when the conflict to keep them apart is predictable and cliche.  In this case it is Cassel's mother's intervention that puts a stop to it and he is tormented by his love for a girl who he believes cannot genuinely return those feelings, while at the same time expresses a longing to be with him.  He finds it increasingly hard to resist the temptation to give in but realizes that Lila's absence of free will would make it wrong to do so and she would not forgive him if he took advantage of the situation .  The curse is temporary so he has no choice but to wait it out, not holding out much hope for their future when it does wear off.

I enjoyed the complexity of Cassel's situation.  He aspires to be good and wants to be on the side that will allow him to do so.  He does not want to become a hired killer.  However, it is difficult to identify where the side of good begins and evil ends (since the line separating them is somewhat blurred).  I found his relationship with his brother Baron fascinating.  On the surface it's all sibling rivalry but underneath lies a bond.  Whereas their mother is a nuisance who creates no end to problems left for Cassel to fix. 

The curse worker series is proving to be a must read.  I look forward to reviewing Black Heart, book 3. 

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