I mentioned in an earlier post how much I dug White Cat, the first book in Holly Black’s Curse Workers series. Red Glove is its follow-up, and while it’s not quite as fun as the first in the series, it’s still a worthwhile successor. Be warned, there are spoilers for White Cat in this review.
In White Cat, Cassel learned that he was a transformation worker and that his two older brothers had been using him as a hit man, then modifying his memories so he would forget about it all. H also learned that Lila, his childhood love and the girl he thought he killed, he had actually transformed into the titular white cat. Now Lila is back in human form, and his mother – ever the meddler – cursed her to “love” him. Cassel is torn between his love for Lila and his knowledge that her love for him is false. Soon, though, he has bigger problems on his plate.
Cassel’s older brother, Philip, is murdered, and the Feds try to recruit Cassel to help them solve the crime. Their only clue is a woman wearing red gloves caught on a security camera – hence the title of the book – and Cassel fears it could be a woman he knows. Not only are the Feds knocking on his door, the mob is too, and Cassel attempts to play both sides in order to stay alive.
One of the things I liked best about Red Glove is its willingness to embrace hard consequences. It seems like a lot of YA SFF books that deal with issues of violence and corruption do so in a sanitary way: the teens are negatively impacted, but they’re never really harmed and always manage to dig themselves out of holes. That’s not the way it works here. Cassel’s actions from White Cat reverberate in Red Glove in very serious ways. The body count is not small, and Cassel realizes just how big it actually is the further we move in the book. Furthermore, he begins to realize how complicit he is in the body count’s size, whether he wielded the killing blow or not.
I also liked the way Black didn’t take her characters down the predictable path. This is particularly true for Lila, who so often does the opposite of what Cassel (and the readers) want her to do. But her actions are always true to her character, which comes into much better focus here than in White Cat. (In White Cat, she was mainly someone for Cassel to feel guilty about. In Red Glove, we begin to see her as an actual person: very ambitious, clever, a little bitter at being worked, and willing to use whatever – and whoever – she needs to get what she wants.)
Like White Cat, Red Glove ends with an opening. I wouldn’t call the ending of either book a true cliffhanger. The main plot is resolved, but Black then adds a little something on to the end to make us want to pick up the next book. It’s nicely done in both books, and I’m happy to report I was able to get my hands on Black Heart to see how the trilogy finishes out. This series has been such an unexpected pleasure, I imagine the concluding volume will be a treat as well. (Although now that I actually research the title a bit, I can’t tell if it’s the concluding volume or merely the third entry in a longer series. Does anyone know?)