Cassel comes to terms with his magical powers and solves the mystery behind his brother's death, eluding members of his dysfunctional family, the Feds and mobsters who are all trying to recruit him to their cause. Cassel Sharpe is a high-school student who is also a curse worker, part of a group of people that have various magical abilities to affect the people or the world around them just by touching things. In this case, Cassel is specifically a transformation worker, meaning he can transform people into things. Curse workers have to wear gloves so that they don't accidentally “curse” someone. This story is the second book of the Curse Worker Series and begins with Cassel's mother wanting to date a wealthy millionaire called Clyde Austin. Cassel's mother has been jailed for pulling off cons in which she extracts money from wealthy people in order to live in luxury. She uses her skill as an emotion worker to persuade people to do what she wants. Even though she's been jailed before, she doesn't stop conning people and in fact becomes more reckless. She makes Cassel dress up like a homeless boy and pretend to rob her so that Clyde will chase after him and retrieve the purse. It is a brilliant plan and her mom succeeds in getting Clyde's attention. Unfortunately, Cassel ruins it when he opens the hotel room door and Clyde sees him and his mom together. His mother has to use her magical powers to “re-rout” the man's emotions so that he leaves them alone.
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Much to his relief, Cassel goes back to Finke Academic Center when the fall semester starts. At school, Cassel is the resident “bookie” – people come to him to make bets on all sorts of things from the outcome of a game to when their teacher will have a nervous breakdown. This is how Cassel collects his own pocket money to survive among the wealthy at the Academy. At school, Cassel reunites with his ex-girlfriend Lila, who is also a curse worker – a dreamworker, to be precise. In the first book of the series (The White Cat), Cassel and Lila were both being used by Zacharov (a mob leader who is also Lila's father) without their knowledge. Cassel unwittingly transformed people into objects and Lila used her powers to make people sleepwalk to their deaths. They never remembered anything they did because Cassel's brother Barron, who is a memory worker, erased their memories. But, by the end of the first book, Cassel and Lila discover the truth and stop working for Zacharov. Cassel also finds out that his mother had been emotion-working Lila so now he can't tell whether Lila actually likes him or it's just due to his mother's curse. This makes for an awkward reunion between the two.
That same day, Cassel is taken off campus to be interrogated by two federal agents –Agent Jones and Hunt. They tell him that they know he is a transformation worker and that they want to recruit him to work for the government. The agents show Cassel a photo of his brother, Philip, who is a physical worker (a person who heal or harm the physical body). They claim that Zacharov is responsible. Cassel is devastated that his brother is dead. The agents also reveal that Philip had been working with them secretly before he was discovered. They want Cassel to continue his brother's work because he has contacts to Zacharov's family through Lila.
The agents explain that they want to find out how Zacharov operates his mob – more specifically, how he makes people disappear. Cassel immediately thinks this might be due to some sort of “death worker”. The agents inform Cassel that the last person to see Philip before he died was a woman who wore red gloves. They think that Cassel is better off working with them since he can't trust certain people in his family – people like Barron. Cassel grudgingly agrees to work for the Agents.
At Philip's funeral, Cassel is confronted by Zacharov who tells Cassel that he wasn't responsible for Phillip's death. He asks Cassel to join him but Cassel is too disgusted by Zacharov and what he does for a living. Meanwhile, Cassel and Lila talk about the traumatic experience of being used by Zacharov. Cassel wonders what happened to the people he transformed and whether he can transform them back to human again. After questioning Barron, Cassel finds out that he transformed a person into a chair, once. Cassel finds the chair and somehow transforms the chair back into its original human form but the person is long dead.
The agents start putting pressure on Cassel to retrieve information about the "assassin". They even threaten to reveal that he is a curse worker, which means he can easily be arrested for doing illegal activities. Cassel thinks the agents have their own agenda and he doesn't trust them. When he goes back to the Philip's apartment to search for clues, he finds a box of cigarettes that are the same brand Lila likes to smoke which makes him a bit suspicious. Meanwhile, Zacharov finds out the truth, that Cassel has been in contact with agents and had been working on a mission to find Phillip's killer. Zacharov reveals that the agents are both curse workers themselves. Later on that night, Cassel discovers a gun in his mother's closet. This gun fits the make and model of the gun that killed his brother. When he confronts his mother about it she denies it. Cassel becomes more and more confused as he has a long list of suspects and few clues to point out who is guilty. Finally, Cassel meets with his brother Barron, who tells him the Feds never planned on protecting him if it is revealed he is a "snitch". Cassel feels trapped because his brother Barron wants him to work with him for another mob group. But Zacharov would kill him if he worked for a competing mobster. He feels trapped.
After ensuring he will have proper witness protection, Cassel tells the Agents that he is the transformation worker responsible for the slew of deaths and the disappearance of the corpses. He tells them he's been working with his brother Barron. Cassel wants to find a way for his family to get out of the mob scene and he thinks this is the only way. He negotiates a deal with the agents to put Barron in the witness protection program, too.
Later that night, Cassel visits Philip's wife's house. He accuses her of being the lady with the red gloves that killed Phillip. He thinks that she did it because she knew that her life was in danger because Philip was working with the Feds. He tells her that he won't give up her identity.
The story ends with Cassel trying to go back to normal life in his school, feeling like finally his family may be cleared from having to do anymore illegal activities.
Best part of story, including ending:
I think the idea of curse workers is very interesting. I like how Holly Black created a whole society and underground world where people with these magical abilities pretend to be normal folks. Also, it was interesting to read about how every day people tried to deal with the idea that curse workers exists. Some of them accepted curse workers like normal people, some of them tried to use the curse workers for their own ends and some of them hate curse workers because of jealousy and fear.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Cassel figures out that the woman with the red gloves was really Phillip's wife. It was a nice twist in the story since we never suspected Phillip's wife to be involved in anything because she was always shown as a very harmless and absentminded character. It made sense that she would be a more complex character than first meets the eye, however, as she is also a victim of Barron's memory working.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that despite the fact that Cassel and his family are so heavily involved in the life of crime and he is being dragged into all sorts of criminal activities, he still believes in doing the right thing.