Holly Black is best known for her delightful middle-grade fantasy series The Spiderwick Chronicles, but here she departs big time from her adventure-quest style for the dark world of The Curse Workers, a teen series where magic is dangerous and nobody can be trusted.
The three books, White Cat, Red Glove, and the recently released Black Heart, are set in an alternate America where a small percentage of the population has the ability to change other people’s emotions, memories, or luck just by touching them. “Curse working,” as it’s called, is illegal, so almost everyone who has it is somehow involved in the criminal underworld. Cassel Sharpe is the only normal person in a family of curse workers, and he’d like to keep it that way. But like any curse worker family, his has secrets, and soon his family’s secrets threaten to drag him down into the world of crime.
Cassel’s quest to unravel the conspiracy around him is gritty and thrilling, full of noir mystery and morally gray characters that keep you guessing. Cassel also narrates in a very believable guy voice, a rarity in today’s field of mainly female-targeted teen novels. I got so wrapped up in the unfolding plot, and Cassel’s struggle to be a “good guy” in a bad environment, that I finished the whole series in about two weeks. I bet you will too!