Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Review: Red Glove by Holly Black

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.

Oh my word I love this book so much. Seriously, anyone who hasn’t yet discovered Holly Black’s work is missing out – and the Curse Workers series is, in my opinion, her best writing yet.

There are a few things that make this series so awesome for me.
1) Cassel. I spend most of my time torn between wanting him to pin me against  something, and wanting to wrap him up in blankets and feed him soup.

2) The world. We’re in modern day America, and curse workers are terrifying mobsters whose powers are illegal but sought after. Being a curse worker is a blessing and a curse, and it’s fascinating to see how different people respond to their gift – and the range of workers there are. 

3) Blowback. It’s so good to see people with these amazing magical gifts who get some sort of blowback for using them. Cassel seems to transform into weird things and blacks out. His brother Barron loses memories of his own – his grandfather loses limbs. With a price to pay on every little curse, it makes the stakes that much higher and more interesting when people are forced to use their powers.

4) The fact that Cassel (and most of his family) are all CON ARTISTS. There are not enough books that have this as a plot line. I love it. Words cannot describe my love. I love the way that Cassel's mind works, the cons and tricks he pulls off, the sheer awesome as you watch all the pieces slot into place. It is magic, plain and simple.

I love Cassel. He is on my list of fictional characters I would love to kidnap. The book is in first person point of view, (and from a female writer, yeah that’s right doubters who think women can’t write male perspective, read this!) So you really get into Cassel’s head. I think this is the only way that the reader would be able to identify with him, as it’s only in his head that he allows himself to show anything other than a cool unruffled front. As it is Black has created a believable bad boy, who the reader can identify with and frequently want to wrap him up in blankets and feed him soup. This guy just doesn’t catch a break!

If it’s not the Feds it’s the crime bosses. And if it’s not them it’s school, or the girl he loves who has been cursed to love him back. And if it’s not all of those combined, it’s his family black mailing him to get what they want.
How anyone could survive all that is beyond me, but somehow he does, and usually emerges mostly unscathed. He’s snarky and the banter and wit between him and the other characters had me laughing out loud. But on the inside, whilst the funny is still there, he’s more calculating, and you see a greater depth to him that he doesn’t necessarily let on is there to anyone else.

Luckily the friendships that had begun to sprout during the first book have really taken off, and I loved seeing the dynamic between Sam and Cassel as he learned to trust someone other than himself. And the sheer blind faith that Sam puts in Cassel, even when faced with such lines as “I want to frame someone for my brother’s murder” Sam just asks “Ok,why?”
I think I might be a little bit on team Sam as well.

Even Cassel’s family, who are some of the most sneaky people on the planet, somehow are likeable. Some of the time. I’m constantly torn over Cassel’s mother – one minute she’s the most selfish person in the world, and yet Cassel will still do anything to protect her, and the next she’s actually sort of being a mother. The same goes for Barron, I love and hate him in equal parts.
The only member of Cassel’s family I genuinely trust is his Grandfather. Which is good, cos the poor guy needs someone he can go to.

Due out in paperback
on 16th June 2011
But in some ways the family are one of the most interesting aspects about the series. I love novels that centre around families – particularly weird families. In a few months when Demon’s Surrender comes out, you’ll see me wax lyrical about Sarah Rees Brennan’s take on family.
I love seeing the dynamics, the need to protect your flesh and blood even if they’re the ones ultimately hurting you – and then the bigger picture of the mob as a family. And seeing how those relationships can take over your life.

And speaking of relationships, his one with Lila is one of the most messed up things. It's heart breaking to watch. It was so good to see more of her as a (relatively) normal girl than we had in 'White Cat' - even if half the time she was being so weird I didn't trust her. And given the end of 'Red Glove' I'm even more excited to see what happens next in the Cassel/Lila saga of epicly thwarted love.

I cannot wait for the next book. This series is one of my favourites, and is becoming stronger with each instalment. The third book in the series “Black Heart” is due out sometime in 2012, and I’m so excited already, I may just have to go back and re-read the series and try to calm down.

No comments:

Post a Comment