We’ve all been manipulated or have manipulated someone in our lifetime, from having a simple candy to maybe getting our parents’ permission to go to a party. Some are good enough, others are criminally good. The Red Glove is the second book in the curse worker series by Holly Black (Check out our review of White Cat, book 1 of the series). This book takes the readers further into the world of criminal manipulation. The curse worker series, as I see it, is about manipulation with a literal sleight of hand. While part of being a worker requires them to touch a person in order to manipulate his or her dreams, luck, and even life – for the Sharpe family, curse working is but one level of manipulation. The art of manipulation involves equal amounts of conning and working someone. The thickness of manipulation in this book made my stomach turn. It hit close to home. I’m not a stranger to manipulation. In many ways, Cassel’s life isn’t that different from mine in terms of family dysfunction and in-family manipulation and lying. I think in many ways this is why I could read the book, Holly Black wrote the book with enough life truths to make everything easier to digest (despite occasional stomach turning).
Family and fate
It is common to believe that aside from one’s physical appearance, we also inherit our personality and even professions from our ancestors. Kids with parents as doctors end up being doctors themselves. The Sharpe family isn’t any different. Cassel, upon discovering his abilities and the truth about his lost memories, is now confronted by his inevitable fate. The overhanging question, in the novel, I felt, was whether he was to fall into the same fate as all his family members. As a psychologist, I’ve learned that it is highly likely that a child raised in a violent and abusive environment would continue this cycle of abuse. In an attempt to find himself far from his family’s influence, Cassel in White Cat got into a private school. Yet, that didn’t free him from being entangled with his family’s criminal trade. The reader watches Cassel confront this dilemma. In his terms it was figuring out if he was the bad guy or the good guy, but reality also tells our protagonist that things aren’t so black and white. More than anything, it’s watching Cassel’s character navigate his way to self-knowledge which made this book less cheesy and less superficial and somewhat effective in weaving a tale of crime and mobsters.
Carrying the burden
Any teenager who grows up in a home such as that of Cassel’s would have to carry a burden. Cassel, as his grandfather describes him, is a good boy. It’s not goodness as we normally define it. He isn’t without his faults, after all he has done his fair share of conning. His goodness, as he may not realize it, is rooted in his inherent conscience. He is no psychopath. He has not rationalized his crime. He accepts his crime and carries the burden. It is his conscience that makes him fail in completely conning people. It is his conscience that makes him hope for something better and that makes him desire normality. This reminds me of how Sherlock (the consulting detective) is different from Moriarty (the consulting criminal). He even carries the burden of his families’ mistakes. Ah yes, a sense of responsibility is always burdensome, but to those who are given greater power, much is expected.
Holly Black was able to make this book less about the love triangle and more about the struggle of his protagonist. I wouldn’t have enjoyed this book if Black’s writing didn’t have depth, but it does. She introduces enough internal and external tension to make it believable. She doesn’t wave her author-like magic wand to tie beautiful bows, she gives realistic and logical outcomes to her characters’ actions. She layers things well enough to make this a crime novel. She puts enough questions and speculation to make the twists believable.
Overall, the book was able to keep me reading. It’s not a page turner, but it had enough believeable elements to sustain the reader’s attention. It isn’t sappy or exceptionally thrilling, but it has good pace, good story and an interesting protagonist. I find, that I would read the next book in the series, as Holly Black made me want to know what’s next for Cassel. What else can I ask from the second book of a series?
Thanks to the people at Pansing for sending us a copy of this book.