Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Holly Black knows how to make readers feel smart in RED GLOVE

I read because I like to feel smart.  Sure, I read as an exercise in escapism.  I read to step into someone else's shoes and to learn about the world around me.  I read to laugh.  I read to cry.  Sure, whatever.

I love books that make me feel smart.  I'm not talking about reading Plato's Republic and then annoying my friends with Socratic quotes.  Not that kind of smart.  I love figuring things out.  I love that "aha!" moment, when I'm pretty sure I've solved the mystery.  I love that light bulb moment so much, that I'll sometimes put a sticky note on the page where things finally came together.  That way, later when someone asks "When did you figure out the BIG MYSTERY?"  I can say, "HA! I knew all the way back on page 98."  (No one's ever asked, but you know, just in case).

BUT! Here's the thing.  As much as I love feeling smart, I also love being tricked.  And this is where Holly Black is most brilliant.  She's weaved so many mysteries, twists, and turns into Red Glove that while I'm patting myself on the back for figuring one thing out (sticky note ready) BAM!  Someone sneaks up behind me and whacks me on the head with a shovel.  (Not literally, you know what I mean).

Red Glove is the second book in Holly Black's magical mobster Curse Workers Series.  But Red Glove is so much more than a sequel to White Cat.  As Kiersten White eloquently points out, Red Glove avoids all the second book pitfalls and is the "perfect middle book."

Cassel's brother is murdered and he has to figure out who killed him, while hiding his powerful curse, and shaking off both the mob and the feds who are breathing down his neck trying to recruit him.  The thing is, Cassel is a pretty screwed up guy.  With an emotion-worker for a mom, he doesn't trust his own feelings, let alone those of others.  His family is full of criminals and killers, and although he doesn't want to be like them, he doesn't know how to be anything else.  He doesn't trust his own sense of right and wrong.  Lies come more easily than the truth.  His self-loathing is so complete, he can't believe anyone would like him unless they're being conned, worked, and/or lied to.

Black does a brilliant job of letting the reader figure some things out long before Cassel does.  He's so lovably screwed up, he can't see what's right in front of him.  But at the same time, Cassel is so busy lying, hiding, and conning, we never see the end coming.  Dark and heartbreaking, with thrilling set-ups and cons, Red Glove's best con is the one Black pulls on the readers.

**Ok, so I know I'm breaking my own rules by raving about a book with a male protagonist.  But, I wouldn't mess with ANY of the women in this book, they're all pretty kick-ass in their own right.  And, they're my rules and I can break them if I want to.  So there.


  1. Great and humourous review. I totally agree about reading to feel smart and all that XD

  2. I like being tricked when I'm reading, but only when I feel like I could've figured it out for myself with some work. I hate books that pull a surprise out of left field with no hints in the book.

    On the opposite end, of course, is the writer who makes the "surprises" so incredibly obvious that a third-grader could figure out the ending by page one. ^_^

  3. Katrina- I know what you mean about the "left field" twists. That's why I love Black's Curse Worker series. The bread crumbs are there, but I never see them until after the twist. She's a master!

  4. Sweet, I love books like that. I think Megan Whalen Turner is another author who does a good job by letting the reader figure it out for themselves and yet fooling them at the same time :) How's the move?

  5. You have a fabulous blog! I want to award you the Best Books Blog Award for all the hard work you do!

    I invite you to follow me since we have a lot in common, but no pressure. I’m not giving you the award just so you will follow me. You really do deserve it!
    Take care:-)

    Go to http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/p/awards.html and pick up your award.

  6. Heather- Thanks for the recommendation. The move has been a little crazy. (Why I'm responding just now).

    Derdra- thanks for the award!

  7. Wow, that sounds really good! I've been meaning to pick up the first one. I should definitely get to it now!