Backlist Review: “White Cat; Red Glove; Black Heart”

This isn’t my first attempt at book blogging. I ran The Cheap Reader for a number of years before burning out. I’m dusting off some of my reviews and giving them new life over here.

White Cat

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they’re all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn’t got the magic touch, so he’s an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He’s noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.

Holly Black has created a gripping tale of mobsters and dark magic where a single touch can bring love — or death — and your dreams might be more real than your memories.

Summary from Goodreads


I downloaded this on a whim last summer. Random House was offering it as a free download so I grabbed it. I loved that the  curse workers were a known part of society. That’s a big change from the fantasy books I normally read. Normally the “creatures” (for lack of a better word) are hidden within society. They do everything in their power to make sure their lives stay secret.  White Cat lets the workers be a part of the everyday world. Sure, there is segregation and fear surrounding the workers but people still know about them. I would love to see that idea implemented in more fantasy books.

The curse working aspect was really fun. A simple touch can lead to good luck, changing of your memories, or even death? As a reader, I was definitely fascinated by it and how everything worked. There is some explanation for how some of the mechanics of it work but not enough for me. Maybe it’s explained more in the rest of the series? I may have missed it since I was listening to it rather than reading it.

The story was pretty good. Everything was so mysterious. You never knew what was going to happen. I’m a total sucker for mysteries , lies, and secrets so I was hooked. Cassel was a decent character. It’s weird. I think if I had read the book I would have only liked him a bit. He’s a developed character, I could understand him, and he was likeable but there were no sparks. I thought Jesse Eisenberg did a really good job with the book so I ended up liking Cassel more. I think hearing him made him feel like a real person. Thumbs up to you Jesse! I wasn’t too wild about the other characters. For the most part many of them are pretty slimy so I suppose they aren’t supposed to be likable.

Like I said before, Eisenberg did a great job with the audiobook. I liked his voice for the story. For me personally, audiobooks aren’t the best choice for fantasy books though. Fantasy books have lots of details about the hows and whys of that world. I have a harder time understanding and comprehending the book if I’m listening rather than reading about it. Then there’s the fact that I spent over a month listening to this book. I definitely had a hard time remembering things.

The bottom line? I liked it well enough. It’s a bit different than my normal fantasy books. I’ll probably pick up book 2 in the future.

Red Glove

Curses and cons.
Magic and the mob.

In Cassel Sharpe’s world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth — he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything — or anyone — into something else.

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she’s human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila’s been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion-worker mom. And if Lila’s love is as phony as Cassel’s made-up memories, then he can’t believe anything she says or does.

When Cassel’s oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue — crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too — they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can’t trust anyone — least of all, himself?

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

Summary from Goodreads


I enjoyed White Cat pretty well. It was interesting jumping from the curse worker world to the mobster side of that world. It was interesting but it was hard to get fully into it because Cassel wasn’t a worker (though we find out differently towards the end). We were outsiders just like Cassel was. Red Glove is more interesting because Cassel is much more involved in the world and people are starting to treat him like an adult.

I never thought I was a fan of mobster and cop story lines. Turns out I was wrong. I really enjoyed seeing some of the inner workings of the curse worker’s  mafia. Throw in the fact that we have some federal agents who aren’t totally upfront about what they are? Loved it! In addition, the storyline had a good amount of mystery. I wasn’t able to predict what has going to happen which is always nice.

I connected pretty well with Cassel in the first book but I didn’t “get” him as much in this book. I do appreciate that fact that we can see that he has matured. I also liked that he thought for himself. He didn’t do (too many) things just because his mom or brother wanted him to. He really started to try to figure out what he wants out of life. Lila was featured quite a bit more in this book. It was hard to get a full read on her since she really wasn’t herself for a good portion of the book. When the real her starts to shine through, she was feisty and strong.

The bottom line? Interesting middle book.

Black Heart

In a world where Magic is illegal.

Cassel Sharpe has the most deadly ability of all. With one touch, he can transform any object – including a person – into something else entirely. And that makes him a wanted man. The Feds are willing to forgive all his past crimes if he’ll only leave his con artist family behind and go straight. But why does going straight feel so crooked?

For one thing, it means being on the opposite side of the law from Lila, the girl he loves. She’s the daughter of a mob boss and getting ready to join the family business herself. Though Cassel is pretty sure she can never love him back, he can’t stop obsessing over her. Which would be bad enough, even if her father wasn’t keeping Cassel’s mother prisoner in a posh apartment and threatening not to let her leave until she returns the priceless diamond she scammed off him years ago. Too bad she can’t remember where she put it.

The Feds say they need Cassel to get rid of a powerful man who is spinning dangerously out of control. But if they want Cassel to use his unique talent to hurt people, what separates the good guys from the bad ones? Or is everyone just out to con him?

Time is running out, and all Cassel’s magic and cleverness might not be enough to save him. With no easy answers and no one he can trust, love might be the most dangerous gamble of all.

Summary from Goodreads


One of my favorite things about the Curse Workers series is things are never what they appear to be. The Feds aren’t exactly knights in shining armor. The mafia can actually save your butt. Damsels in distress can turn out to be liars. Black Heart certainly kept me on my toes because there was no way I could suspect something. Any guesses I had were wrong (in the best possible ways).

I also really liked how the fantasy of the book was never too far out of reach. You could almost imagine Curse Workers living among us. Black was able to paint a world that made sense for them to be there. You could also understand the ramifications of such a world and understand some of the segregation and fear of the world.Black does a really awesome job of fleshing out her characters. Even side characters like Sam and Daneca had depth to them. No one is perfect but their flaws make them likeable. Cassel and his growth throughout the series has been amazing. I loved that even though he’s done some bad things he’s not a bad person perse. In fact, he does some really stupid things to avoid being a bad person.  That struggle was really great to see over the series.

I really appreciated Cassel and Lila’s love and relationship. It’s totally natural. There are no grand declarations of love. There’s no total despair and wallowing in sadness when feelings aren’t returned. The relationship just is and it’s quite nice.Can I just say that I would love to see the Curse Workers played out on the big screen? The series has a really great movie vibe for me.

The bottom line? Great ending to a really original series.
If you’re looking for a high original fantasy series with awesome world building, check out The Curse Workers.


2 thoughts on “Backlist Review: “White Cat; Red Glove; Black Heart”

  1. I knew Holly Black had a ton of other books I haven’t read, but this series sounds INCREDIBLE! I can’t believe I haven’t gotten to them yet. Great reviews!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s