I read a whole book this afternoon, just because I could. The book was Red Glove by Holly Black. It’s the middle book of a trilogy which began with White Cat and will end with Black Heart. They’re YA novels, but such dark ones. The protagonist has done all kinds of appalling things, most of which he doesn’t remember. He’s surrounded by violence. His family are con artists and grifters who abuse and betray his trust. His efforts to do the right thing get him into more and more trouble. And it all takes place in a world much like our own except for a few intriguing and far-reaching differences. In the world of the novel, some people have talents – they can make people forget things, or they can give them dreams, or they can kill people, or they can transform people and things into other objects, simply by touching the person with their bare hands and willing it to be so. These talented people are called curse-workers and are branded criminals if they exercise their skills.
I really like the way Holly Black works out the implications of her world. Criminalising the curse-workers if they act marginalises them, so they tend to be criminals and con-artists by default, because they have no other options. And the social fear of the workers means that bare hands are verboten – not exactly illegal but not acceptable either. Everyone wears gloves all the time and to take them off in front of anyone is transgressive and vaguely obscene. There are public service announcements and posters announcing “No glove; no love.” Nice.
The books are noir crime thrillers populated by con-men, mobsters, dodgy cops, a horribly messed up family, and featuring a basically moral hero who is trapped in this amoral environment. And they have a bit of magic, for want of a better word, thrown in for good measure. I like them very much. And I look forward to the third (and last) in the series.