The Curse Workers series by Holly Black has appeared on at least six of my Top Ten Tuesday lists over the course of the past year or so. I love this series and recommend it to everyone, and yet I have never blogged a review. Now that the series is complete I thought I would do a quick series review. I enjoyed doing that with the Ruby Oliver series, so here goes.
Oh wait, this isn’t how the series looks. Someone thought that it would be a good idea to change the cover for the third book in the trilogy. So really, this is what you will see on shelves everywhere.
White Cat and Red Glove got redesigned to match, but I feel like it’s a waste of money to replace the first two just so they match (and I am talking about my own personal copies as well as library copies). So, until something horrible happens to the first two (gosh is would be awful is they went missing or accidentally soaked up a cup of coffee, or whatever. These things happen.), I am going to have this ugly mismatched collection. I am totally cheesed about this. And I kind of hate the new covers. To be fair, if the new covers were awesome I may not actually have a problem shelling out so everything matched. But, that is not the point. The point is, no matter what the stupid cover situation is, the story inside is amazing.
I am going to do my best to keep this spoiler free, so the descriptions of the second and third book may be vague, but it’s for the best. You really need to unwrap all the secrets for yourself.
Set in an alternate reality New Jersey, the population is divided into two groups: curse workers and non-curse workers. Curse workers are people who have the ability to manipulate magic. Workers can affect everything from dreams, luck, memories, and emotions with a simple skin-to-skin touch. There are also a rare number of workers who can kill with their touch. Cursing is illegal, but the that doesn’t stop everyone from wielding their power. Meet Cassel Sharpe, the youngest in a family of curse workers, grifters, and con artists. Cassel is the black sheep in his family, and it’s not because he recently killed his best friend. Haunting dreams of a white cat lead Cassel to search for answers about the night his friend died. What he discovers rocks his world and everything he has ever believed.
Gritty, dark, and thrilling, this book will have you on the edge of your seat. Cassel is an amazing character. He has the bad-boy thing down pat. He is clever because he is a con artist. He is lonely because he is an outcast. He is full of guilt and self-loathing because he is a murderer. He’s got a lot going on and all he really wants is to feel normal. The world-building is complex and compelling, with the perfect blend of mafia and magic. Think Sopranos meets Harry Potter. Lucky for you, there is no long wait to discover Cassel’s fate!
Cursing and conning is the Sharpe family business and there are no such things as personal boundaries. After spending the summer with his con-artist mother swindling the rich and powerful, Cassel is back at school, where he struggles to come to terms with everything he learned about his family and his past. A growing political movement demanding worker rights and another murder certainly don’t help matters, but it’s the fact that both the Feds and the mob are interesting in recruiting him that has made Cassel’s life a living nightmare.
Red Glove picks up where White Cat left off. The line between right and wrong continues to remain blurred for Cassel as he struggles to make the best decision he can. Poor Cassel remains a tortured soul, but you can’t help but love him. I really enjoyed the politically charged storyline about worker’s rights as well as getting to know some of the secondary characters a little better. Also, those worker mob families do not mess around!
The con is second nature to Cassel Sharpe, as natural as breathing, but he is trying to be good. As usual, his family, particularly his mother, is making that difficult. In an attempt to do the right thing, Cassel is working with the Feds on a new case. He is also trying to figure out how to protect his love interest from the mob. With all this going on, will the con artist see the con before it’s too late?
Threats, secrets, blackmail, and danger abound in the thrilling and satisfying conclusion to The Curse Workers series. That’s really all I can say. I am pleased with the ending and more than a little sad to see Cassel go. I would definitely read more! This series is solid start to finish, will appeal to both male and female teen readers (super thumbs up bonus, in my opinion), and I highly recommend you check it out.
Readalikes: There really aren’t any, but for another strong, tortured male protagonist you may enjoy I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga and The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith. Both of these books are pretty intense, and not for everyone. For more of the mafia world check out All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin. For awesome world building try Divergent by Veronica Roth, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi or The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix.