Our cast from the last books all make an appearance here. Cassel, Lila, Sam, Daneca, Daneca’s mom (Mrs. Wasserman), Cassel’s mom, Philip, Barron, Grandpa, and Lila’s Dad (Mr. Zacharov).
Agents Jones and Hunt – government (FBI maybe?) agents who are investigating the Zacharov family, a number of folks who have simply vanished, and are looking to get help from Cassel. Apparently, Philip had entered into an immunity deal with them and was going to spill about who knows what.
Bethenny Thomas and Janssen – She is Janssen’s ex-girl friend. She put a hit out on Janssen. Janssen was transformed by Cassel and when Cassel tries to turn him back form the ashtray that he is, he dies. Cassel frames her for Philip’s death.
Main Premise: Cassel’s brother Phillip is killed. But he is murdered and we don’t know by who. The Feds come to school and try to get Cassel’s help figuring out where a whole bunch of mobsters went. We know early on that the killer the Feds are looking for has to be Cassel. Lila starts going to Cassel’s school. She just wants to be near him, even though she knows about the curse. Sam and Daneca join Cassel in trying to figure it out.
The Fed’s clue to who is involved is a simple video clip with a woman who is wearing red gloves. Cassel finally figures out who killed Phillip and manages to in fact get Bethenny set up.
There are a number of side stories – that in small ways move the plot along but don’t seem tremendously integral. First, Lila ends up with another boy, to try to get Cassel out of her system. He gets pissed and out’s the HEX group as all workers. HEX, lead by Daneca and Lila, get even and he ends up leaving school. Cassel goes to comfort Lila and Audrey throughs a brick through Lila’s window. Cassel, to escape, transforms himself into a black cat, and then transforms back. Sam learns the type of worker he is; and we learn that Daneca is also a worker. Zacharov has Cassel work a mobster and Cassel feels awful guilt over it – but he gets a nice new car from Zacharov as a taste of what his future could hold.
Other Important Things to Remember for Later: Cassel, after working out the details about the fact that Maura killed Phillip, framing Bethenny, working out a real deal for immunity with the Feds (with the help of Daneca’s mom, an attorney), he ends up in a position where he will have a future after finishing school with the Feds. Lila gets her necklace of scars signifying her as a member of the crime family that she will one day lead. And, she caught Daneca trying to work her (at Cassel’s request, since she is an emotions worker, and Cassel asked Daneca to make Lila feel nothing for Cassel) and now is very angry with Cassel. Cassel’s mom is still on the loose (since it was worked to get her out of jail in the first place) and she got herself mixed up with the governor of NJ, who she worked into dropping his support for the proposition which would mandate testing for workers.
I realized that I have a hard time reading books that are written in the first person. I don’t mind when they are from the pov of one particular character, but when they are written in real time as if the events are happening around the characters (all present tense verbs) and from one pov, it seems choppy. This series isn’t written as well as Holly Black’s Modern Fairy Tale series. Like with the first, the writing is not very elegant. It’s a little ODD for me. The way Cassel’s mind drifts and treats some things with great detail and other things get short-handed – and there’s no consistency to it. Sometimes it’s surroundings that get the short-shrift and sometimes its events and sometimes characters. It was just ok. The plot picks up where we left off, but I am not sure that the author had a very good idea of what to do with a number of aspects of the overall story arc. In fact, I am not sure there was an overall story arc in the series, except that we have 2 books in the same world with the same characters. I expected much more from the dilemma about the Lila-Cassel curse, and I was disappointed.
The concept is still novel and confusing all at the same time. Workers who work only with their hands (as opposed to any other part of their bodies when skin to skin contact occurs?) so they all wear gloves – it’s unique. There is a line between spells and it being simply a talent, but that line isn’t explored or very clear. The introduction of the feds was sort of boring. And the relationship between Lila and Cassel was strained. More then just as a result of the curse. It was as if the author didn’t really know what to do with that portion of the plot. It got just enough focus to be sort of a tease and not nearly enough to mean much.
Like the first, this was a quick read. It was ok – and we will see where Black Heart, book 3, goes from here.