Title: Red Glove
Author: Holly Black
Series: Curse Workers #2
Genre: YA, Urban Fantasy
The blurb is under the cut as it contains White Cat spoilers and the review also includes mild spoilers.
This is how you do a sequel!
Red Glove fixes most of the problems I had with White Cat, while also being a pretty good book in its own right. All the cons are still there and are even more fun thanks to the more developed characters. The world feels even bigger than in the first book without losing focus on the characters that matter. Also it keeps getting darker. And I got wonderfully invested in it.
In other words, even if you didn’t love White Cat, give this book a chance! I, for one, I’m really excited to read Black Heart. (And if you’re looking for a fun Urban Fantasy read check out White Cat if you haven’t). Now onto the review…
The cons get craftier and the stakes rise ever higher in the riveting sequel to White Cat.
After rescuing his brothers from Zacharov’s retribution, Cassel is trying to reestablish some kind of normalcy in his life.
That was never going to be easy for someone from a worker family that’s tied to one of the big crime families—and whose mother’s cons get more reckless by the day. But Cassel is coming to terms with what it means to be a worker, and he’s figuring out how to have friends.
Except normal doesn’t last very long. Soon Cassel is being courted by both sides of the law and is forced to confront his past—a past he remembers only in scattered fragments, and one that could destroy his family and his future. Cassel will have to decide whose side he wants to be on, because neutrality is not an option. And then he will have to pull off his biggest con ever to survive….
First, I want to say when I went into these books I wasn’t expecting something this dark. As in White Cat there’s so much screwed up stuff happening in its sequel. But this book actually shows how well can “darker and edgier” topics work (heh). Even the downright evil characters get some depth. Something I often see in books is that the authors want the characters to be morally grey but end up backing out in fear of making their characters unsympathetic. Well, Holly Black is actually committed. The implications of Cassel’s discovery (also way darker than I was expecting) in the first book are actually explored in Red Glove to a point where I didn’t think it would dare to go. This decision made the book so rewarding. So yeah, second time this series surprises me with its boldness. Black is not willing to brush off the implications of the magic system, she embraces them to tell the story.
Keeping up with the topic of implications, the book actually dealt with Lila’s curse in a really respectful and nuanced way. I was so apprehensive when I picked up the book, because I hate when book don’t acknowledge how violating mind/emotional control would for the characters involved. I was pleasantly surprised! Mostly thanks to keeping a focus on Lila’s feelings and how sucky the situation was for everyone involved but most of all Lila (can you tell I love Lila?).
Cassel, oh Cassel. This is how you do bad boys. Cassel manages to be deeply sympathetic despite the many illegal and occasionally selfish things he does. How does the book manage this? It lets Cassel be human and vulnerable and try to come to terms with what he discovered. Also whenever he’s a jerk, it’s actually acknowledged by the narrative. The book goes to dark places with the character but he always keeps his humanity. His constant self-loathing felt very real and understandable and it hurt.
In White Cat, I thought that Sam and Daneca were kind of underdeveloped and disconnected from the plot. Here they’re definitely not. They feel a lot more fleshed out and so do their relationships with other characters. They’re also allowed to be flawed but ultimately good people. I think they worked nicely as a stark contrast with the other awful, terrible people in the book. Also I love their friendship with Cassel and Lila.
The plot struck a nice balance between being able to stand in its own right while also contributing to the overarching story. Unlike so many second books in trilogies I didn’t think this was a filler book. The characters grew, the plot lines advanced. That said, I didn’t find the main mystery as poignant as the one from the first book but, again, those are some pretty high standard to live up to! Cassel holding back information from reader was still annoying given the almost non-existent narrative distance in the rest of the book and I found the reveal predictable. But the rest was a fun ride.
The only thing that I wasn’t able to get into was the writing style. The prose was very dry, this is just my personal preference but I like metaphors and figurative language and this book barely had any. However, Cassel’s narration could be laugh-out-loud funny at times and it felt very much like his own voice.
Many things can go wrong when books get this dark. Almost none do here, thanks to the masterful execution. I can’t wait to read the last book!