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Black, Holly. Red Glove. New York: McElderry Books, 2011.
---------. Black Heart. New York: McElderry Books, 2012.

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] swan_tower for borrowing these to me.

Premise description, from my previous post: In brief, a certain segment of the population is born with the ability to work curses on others via their hands--but each worker can only work one type of curse, and each curse creates blowback directly in the worker, so that death-workers, for example, are always liable to lose fingers. To make things even more complicated, Prohibition outlawed curse-working in the States, and of course, to deal with that, workers have formed organized crime families.

I enjoyed White Cat, and though the latter two books aren't quite as shockingly twisty as the first one, I liked them a lot too. They are compulsively readable, and as always, Holly Black is really good at capturing the atmosphere of New Jersey and also the character of New Jersey people. I also really appreciated the very believable New Jersey-style politics and violence of the overarching plot - there's a scene in the third book that is basically straight-up pasticheing Jim McGreevy, the former governor who resigned over a gay affair. Maybe this is something that can only be appreciated by other people who've had the experience of glancing up at CNN and wondering, "Why is my governor on TV?" but it was truly hilarious.

The thing about McGreevey, and everyone knew it, was that he was in deep with the mob because he'd come up through the Democratic machine in North Jersey, and Holly Black's criminal families are pretty believable. I'm not saying that I know anyone in the mob, but if you hang out with enough white people in Jersey you'll eventually meet some people who may or may not know some people. My mom's best friend did interior decorating for a New York boss at one of his houses on Staten Island, for instance.

Cassel and Lila and Cassel's friends are an interesting bunch, and I was particularly glad to see that Lila got more of a role to play in these books. The romance plot was appropriately twisted and fucked-up, and the politics of workers - and the question of who to trust, and why, which becomes quite important for Cassel, as you may imagine - were handled interestingly. I liked Cassel, too, through it all; his fundamental problem in the second book is that he's too good to be a crook but too crooked to go straight, and then in the third book it turns out that everything might be wavy anyway.

Also, I'm sorry, this is just pure New Jersey:

"You don't know," she says to Barron through her tears. "Look at Cassel. That's his father's suit."
     "Yeah, and it's about a million years out of style," says Barron.
[…]
     "Save the kid from looking like Cassel there," says Barron. "Throw the stuff out. Besides, I got a line on a guy in Princeton looking to buy a painting. I need a roper. We'll buy a dozen silk suits."
     Mom sniffs and slugs back the rest of her drink. (Red Glove, 68)


I'm on the fence about whether to tag this post as "chromatic protagonist" or not. The end of Red Glove finally confirms that Cassel is brown-skinned (it was ambiguous but suggested in the first book), but…Black doesn't really do anything with it. (To be fair, Cassel doesn't know his own family history because he lives in a family of con men.) I don't know. That was one of the few sour notes for me, but overall, having read all of Black's YA novels, I think these are her best yet.
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