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Red Glove by Holly Black

Red GloveA review by Jade Hounsell

The first thing I have to say is I highly recommend that you read the first book in the series, White Cat, before you think of reading Red Glove. Personally, I haven’t read it but this one seems to follow on directly from that one and there isn’t a whole heap of explaining back-stories going on. Not to say that you cannot follow the story, but it would make things a lot easier if you already know what is going on.

This book follows the life of 17-year-old Cassel, a Transformation Curse worker, and the narrator of the book. Before I go on I have to explain the best I can what a Curse worker is. It seems to be some sort of magical power that can be used on someone just by touching him or her. There are Emotional workers whom, as the name suggests, can manipulate peoples emotions, Dream Workers who can enter dreams and change them, Memory workers who can add or remove memories, Luck workers who can change the luck of someone for good or bad, Death workers, well that one is self explanatory and the rarest of all, Transformation workers who can transform people into animals or objects. The Curse Worker can also use their power on themselves if they wish to.

Curse Worker seems to be a hereditary trait, but the actual power doesn’t seem to follow any kind of reason that I can follow in this book. I mean in Cassel’s family he has an Emotional Worker mother, Memory Worker brothers and a Death Worker grandfather.

Due to no body knowing for sure who is a Curse worker and who isn’t, everybody is made to wear gloves at all times so that an accidental touch doesn’t end up with some one getting Cursed. A bare hand is pretty much considered the same as streaking on a busy street, everybody who sees will generally avoid in any way possible and the police will usually be called in to handle it.

Anyways, Cassell comes from a family of grifters, and it’s assumed that he will follow in their footsteps since he has been groomed for it since childhood. You see, and I don’t think I am giving anything away when I say this; Cassell has been used by his two older brothers, Phillip and Barron, to Transform people into objects like chairs and bottles. I am pretty sure that Phillip or Barron, if not both are working for a Mob family and the transformed people are ‘hits’. The difference is Cassell has no idea that he has done this due to his memories of the events being removed or altered by his brother/s.

Then one day the feds pull Cassell in and tell him that his brother Phillip has been murdered. The feds show Cassell an image they have of who they think is a woman, coming out of his brother’s apartment wearing a trench coat and red gloves around the time he was murdered, and now they need him to help them solve the case. They also give him a case file with missing people that have been linked to Phillip and ask him to go over it and see if anything seems familiar. That’s when Cassell’s memories start to return and he has a feeling he may have been involved somehow.

Cassell is in a very bad place for most of this book, not trusting anyone except for maybe his best friend and roommate, Sam. He even begins to suspect he maybe the person who murdered his brother, so there is a lot of self-loathing and questions on where his trust should reside even, or I should say especially, within his family.

Throw into the mix that the girl Cassell has feelings for has been ‘Cursed’ to love him, a political movement to ‘out’ Curse workers to the general population, mobsters wanting to recuit him into the ‘family’ and just coping with normal school issues and Red Glove is a very interesting and enjoyable read.

Previously published in Dark Matter issue 5, September 2011.  This blog has been pre-dated to reflect the date of original publication.

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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