Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Review - Holly Black's Red Glove

Red Glove (Curse Workers Book 2) by Holly Black
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: April 5th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy

Cassel has spent his summer celebrating the end of his mother's incarceration by getting back on the game with her in Atlantic City. Cassel is so worried about how Lila was cursed into loving him by his own mother that he isn't very concerned with his mother returning to her old ways; the ways that got her into prison in the first place. But Cassel doesn't care, he has his final year of school soon and will spend all that time trying not to think of Lila. Bit hard when Lila has transferred to Wallingford. Yet those are the least of his worries when the feds show up to interrogate Cassel about his brother Philip.

Turns out Philip isn't really the forgiving sort, even when it comes to family. To get revenge against Cassel he has turned narc and was going to tell the feds everything, until he was murdered... The feds are now looking to Cassel for help with Philip's murder, as well as a slew of other ones. While Philip's murder should bother Cassel the most, the other murders, or more accurately, disappearances, concern him more, because he thinks he might have done them himself. Then there's his mother, who has "aligned" herself with New Jersey's Governor who is for the anti-Workers bill. Walking a thin line between right and wrong in every aspect of his life, Cassel longs for normality, but the con keeps calling him.

One of the things that I love most about the Harry Potter books is that you get a feel for the character's daily lives amongst the chaos. Some of my favorite parts of the books are Harry, Ron, and Hermione just hanging out in the common room and doing their homework. There's something calming and homey about this. This, among many others, is the reason that the Harry Potter books are like comfort food in written form. Just sink into a chair in the Gryffindor common room and let the worries of the world wash away. That's what Red Glove felt like to me.

Like White Cat, Red Glove, is very much derivative of Harry Potter, but in this second installment it was almost entirely made up of those captured moments of rest at Hogwarts. Red Glove was a very non-demanding book. The mystery wasn't in any hurry to be solved and skipping a few classes to relax seemed of more importance. If I'm being honest, with things in my life as they are right now, this is exactly what I needed in a book. A quick read that wasn't demanding and felt like you'd had a good long nap after you finished it. A refreshing read if you will.

There is one thing that I thought had potential that was ill utilized, and I'm talking about the relationship between Cassel and his mother Shandra. For the previous volume she was in jail so their relationship was confined to phone conversations and we were unable to get how the dynamic of their relationship works. Now that she's out there's so much opportunity that Black could have exploited and we are left with one tantalizing glimpse of what could have been. Their relationship is very odd, the closest thing I can think of is Norma and Norman Bates on Bates Motel.

It's a weird vibe, what with the mother supplying endless girls to get Cassel over Lila, all while saying how ungrateful he is for the gift she made of Lila. Girls who may or may not be working girls it should be said. Plus the way Cassel just sits around watching his mother do her endless toilette to go on the game, icky spiders going up and down my spine. Yet the second Cassel is back in school, his mother is off his radar, though sometimes on his tv screen. I just wish this relationship had been explored more, because I think Cassel doesn't make much sense unless you look at his family. We already know how his brother's fucked him up, but his mother knew about that and also added in her own brand of sick.

Speaking of Shandra, she is just one of the many women in Cassel's life and I've got to say, there's a victim mentality with the three main women in Cassel's life. Shandra, his mother, Lila, the love of his life, and Philip's wife, Maura; all three women are victims. Shandra, because of her own impulses resulting in incarceration, Lila, because of years of captivity as a cat and then being whammied by Shandra, and Maura, whose memories were being wiped so that she wouldn't remember fights with her husband and therefore forget about leaving him.

Of course this could all be the cause of the world they live in and the life of crime they can't escape, but the fact that all three have been violated can not be forgotten. But Black does something interesting. She let's the victims have their revenge. She lets the oppressed claim a little of their own back. So while the depiction of women might seem bleak, they aren't weak in the end. Shandra gets out of prison and embarks on a major con that is for the benefit of all the cursed, instead of settling for her own comfort, Lila breaks free of her curse and starts to plan her future where she will take over her father's empire, while Maura... well, Maura's revenge is something you have to learn for yourself and then savor.


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