Friday, 3 April 2015
The Curse Workers trilogy by Holly Black
This series is one I've had my eye on for a while. I've only recently discovered Holly Black and knew I enjoyed her writing, so I was intrigued to read about a male protagonist. It tells of Cassel, the only non-worker in a notorious worker family. Black has created an entire alternate history where some people have innate magic powers and can "work" people by touching them. By touching anyone, his mother can make them feel whatever she wants, one brother can re-write memories, and his grandfather can kill. This society has grown to wear gloves at all times and mistrust all workers.
As we got to know Cassel and his family, it became apparent that they have lied to him about two very serious things: what really happened to Lila and him being a non-worker. These both come to light half way through the first book and get increasingly complicated throughout the series. Cassel has always thought that he killed Lila, his childhood best friend, and torments himself because of what he did. But it is revealed that his brothers have been using him to advance within a crime family and been re-writing his memories so he never knew.
Not only are Cassel's family liars, they are criminals. Partly because workers are considered criminals, regardless of whether they've worked anyone, because of new laws, but also his family and Lila's family go way back, with mafia-style deeds. Plus Cassel has inherited some skills because he runs a gambling operation at his boarding school, and his childhood memories include running cons over rich men with his mother. As Cassel gets deeper into trouble, first with crime families, then with the government, his knowledge of planning cons comes in handy.
Over the course of the trilogy, we see Cassel grow. It's set over a few months but since Cassel learns the truth about himself and his family, he realises how he can stand up for himself and learns more about the world around him. He learns more about his power, how to control it, how to get away with it and, by the third book, how to con the government and politicians alike.
I loved this trilogy. It was smart and funny and a little sad, but mostly Cassel was a great character to follow around and hear from. There is more and more at stake as Cassel uncovers more secrets and gets into trouble. But of course, he's learned to think on his toes and he knows the art of the con, so nothing sticks to him for long. With a protagonist like that, with some amazing secondary characters and an incredible original story, Black has created a real winner and one of my new all time favourites.