Sucker for Series: Curse Workers by Holly Black

Sucker for Series: Curse Workers by Holly Black

White Cat #1

Red Glove #2

Black Heart #3


I hate to say I was pushed into reading this series, but well, you know who you are – and you know you do some pushing. Thank you for the push. 

So this series is a unique, but a growing subset, in the young adult paranormal genre.  The uniqueness being female authored with a male protagonist as the hero and a dark dark world.  The lead in each of these books is the same teenaged boy – -Cass.  I would compare it to Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride, or Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake.  There seems to be a desire on the part of the paranormal reading crowd to read about male protagonists, so these books are definitely finding their niche readers. 

Cass was born into a crime family, not a powerful one but the world in this series is divided into two parts:  those with magical abilities and those without.  People fear those with magical powers and due to unfair legislation, fear of people without magic, internments and round ups those with magical abilities are segregated in lifestyle from those without powers.  Everyone wears gloves.  All the time.  Why? The abilities people have  (just one – the magic workers have just one power each) are not fun and nor are the powers nice but instead, the powers are such that kill, powers to alter memories, powers to make people feel things that they would not feel on their own and the power to transform someone from one object into another.  But in order to work their curse, the magic workers need to use their bare fingers and touch bare skin on their target – – thus the gloves that everyone (even non magical workers) wear at all times. 

I have trouble with stories and series where people with powers can just do whatever they want with no cost.  Holly Black created a world where magic exists but it isn’t easy.  Everytime a magic worker puts a curse on someone there is a “blow back”.  Memory workers lose parts of their own memories.  Emotion workers suffer through emotional ups and downs.  Death workers have parts of their bodies die off … and on and on …

There is an undercurrent of politics driven by fear throughout the series.  It is not overwhelming and the politics do not dominate the plot.  A question that I kept thinking is – shouldn’t the non magical people be afraid?  What is a fair solution to protect the non magical people but not overly limit the ability of the magical people to live their lives?  I am not sure there is a solution and Holly Black shows that tension of what it would be like to live with real threats like death workers and memory workers. 

So Curse Workers has some recycled cliché young adult themes: hero doesn’t know the extent of his powers, family is really out there, boarding school, boy kills off his girlfriend there is lots of blood, painful memories …. screeeeeeech …okay maybe that is not an overused cliché.  

What I think Holly Black did really well is set up this story in a very familiar setting but then took it somewhere most young adult books do not go.  There is sex, there is drinking, there is death and sociopathic behavior and the ending of the series is not storybook at all.  So the ending is anti-everything we want for our kids or our parents dream about for us but you know what?  It is perfect for this series and I loved that Holly Black ended it the way she did. 

Now I listened to this series in audio, despite also owning it in ebook.  I think I should have read it.  The narration was done well, I guess … but it didn’t grab me.  I need to say thought, that the narration does not detract or take away from the story at all.  Despite that, I would suggest reading this series.  I recommend this book to people who enjoy darker urban fantasy stories and who are okay with a slow build in the beginning of a story.

Overall Series Rating:  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 

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Comments 2

  • I love this. I started the first book a few months back. I listened to the audiobook version of this because it was read by actor Jesse Eisneberg. He did a great job in my opinion and I heard this will become a movie and he would be perfect as Cass. I agree, there are a couple of cliches, but the book is great enough not to annoy me with them especially the whole boy killing girlfriend thing 🙁 It is a great story and I hope Hollywood doesn’t screw it up. Definitely a great series. Great choice hon 😉