I honestly don’t know why more people don’t talk about the Curse Workers series? It’s genuinely brilliant and by the end you’re so attached to these characters you’d read another three books about them. Cassel Sharpe is just as lovable and interesting and sympathetic to read about as Jude Duarte (and I say this as a massive Jude stan).
Cassel Sharpe is King
March 12-14, 2020
Cassel advising Sam on how to manage the books.
You know one of these days I’m finally going to work up the time and motivation to write an epic-sized meta about Kaz Brekker, Tommy Shelby, Locke Lamora, Levi Glaisyer and Cassel Sharpe as different versions of the same scheming anti-hero out to steal everything you own archetype, but that day is not today.
“clever as the devil
and twice as pretty”
- Holly Black
“That’s why the big score is a myth. A fairy tale. Because no one ever quits after a successful job. They get stupid and cocky and think they’re invulnerable. They convince themselves to do just one more, just this last time. And then the time after that, because if a job goes sideways, then you want to do another to get the taste of failure out of your mouth. And if it goes well, you do another to chase that feeling.”
galaxy brain daneca runs off with lila and cassel’s just there while sam goes to film school
Black Heart by Holly Black is the final book in the Curse Workers trilogy. Cassel is training to enter into the FBI’s program for young workers once he turns 18. Lila on the other hand is taking her destiny in stride. Having taken her scars, Lila has begun working as a foot soldier for her father to earn respect before taking her place as head of the family. The emotion work that was done on Lila has faded, and her relationship with Cassel is tumultuous at best.
Cassel’s mother is in trouble with the law… again. After doing emotion work on Governor Patton, Cassel’s mother was forced into hiding when what she had done went public. Cassel finds out that it was Zacharov that put his mother up to working Governor Patton as repayment for stealing the Resurrection Diamond. Seeing as Cassel’s mother failed with Governor Patton, Zacharov has taken her as a “prisoner” (albeit a very comfortable prisoner) in his apartment until Cassel can locate and return the diamond.
Cassel has enough on his plate between working another deal with Zacharov, trying to avoid being kicked out of school, and keeping his side gig as a fed-in-training on the down low. Cassel’s newest assignment from the FBI is to transform Governor Patton who is a staunch supporter of proposition two, the law that would require citizens to be tested by the government for working abilities. Cassel’s FBI handler insists that Cassel can remove himself at anytime, but the conman in him knows that something about the mission is off.
Because Cassel can’t seem to say no, he also agrees to help a girl in his school named Mina blackmail the dean of Wallingford. The dean has been diagnosed with Alzheimers and Mina has been forced to do physical work on him in exchange for a scholarship to the school. However, the working Mina is doing to stall the dean’s illness is causing her to fall ill herself. Mina’s situation is just one of many atrocities that worker kids are forced into because of legality issues surrounding their abilities. If the Patton supported proposition two were to pass and the identities of workers made public, many other kids would be forced into situations like Mina’s.
Cassel wanted nothing more than to be a worker, but now that news about his transformation abilities is spreading Cassel is faced with deciding how to use his powers. Cassel learns that there are no real good guys. That everyone has an agenda and is willing to do whatever necessary to achieve it. The best that Cassel can hope for is to do right by his friends and family. He knows that life as a transformation worker won’t be easy, but that nothing worth doing ever is. After months of protecting his family and trying to do the right thing, Cassel finally decides to do what makes him happy.
Black Heart served to wrap up the story of Cassel Sharpe. Cassel learns that the world isn’t black and white, and that it is how you work within the shades of grey that matters. He cannot force his family to change. Every situation can’t be remedied by a clever con. The monopoly on Cassel’s powers isn’t to be held by the FBI or by Zacharov or by his mother, but by Cassel himself. The story started out a little slow. It would’ve been hard to remain engaged if you weren’t already invested in the characters. The plot involving Mina and the dean was interesting in that it showed the situations that worker kids are forced into and provided support for why proposition two shouldn’t be allowed to pass. The portions of the story involving proposition two and Governor Patton are where most of the action is. The plot involving the Resurrection Diamond and Cassel’s mother felt random and forced. The story would have been more or less the same if this part had been removed.
I was conflicted on what rating to give Black Heart. I was disappointed by the slow lead up and lack of continuous action, but once the plot picked up it was enjoyable. Even through the slower portions I remained interested, which is why I ended up giving the book a 4/5. Overall, I would recommend the Curse Workers series to fans of the fantasy genre and for those who enjoy teen heist stories.
****White Cat Spoilers****
Now that Cassel Sharpe knows that he is a transformation worker he knows that he is a wanted man, in more ways than one. After spending the summer with his con-woman mother pulling schemes in Atlantic City, Cassel is ready to head back to school for his senior year. It isn’t long before Cassel’s life becomes more complicated. After telling Lila she had been worked by his mother, Cassel spent most of the summer avoiding her and her cursed love, only to discover that she has enrolled at his school. To make murky matters murkier, Cassel’s brother Philip, a mobster turned informant, has been murdered and the feds on his case expect Cassel to help them find the killer. The feds believe that Philip’s murderer is the same person responsible for hits carried out by an individual hired by the mobster Zacharov, but Cassel knows this isn’t the case. He knows because he is responsible for the disappearances of the other men. Cassel must balance school, cursed love, and his new career as an informant while also conducting his own investigation into Philip’s murder. Cassel lives in a world of secrets and lies, but in such a world how does one find the truth?
Red Glove by Holly Black has a fun fantasy meets murder mystery plot. Although not as fast-paced as White Cat, Red Glove does have its share of twists and schemes. Excluding the fantastical aspect of curse working, it’s not hard to imagine real life kids from crime families experiencing shenanigans similar to that of Cassel and Lila. Red Glove was an enjoyable read without being overly involved. A book to read just for the fun of reading.
Cassel Sharpe is a Worker, except he doesn’t know that yet. Workers can specialize in emotion, memory, luck, dreams, body, death, and the rarest type, transformation. Given that the process of “working” is illegal, Workers are the subject of prejudice and struggle to find employment outside of the large crime families. Cassel has learned the way of the con from his mother, who is doing a stint in jail for using her emotional work on an unsuspecting millionaire. Cassel’s brother Philip has followed in their grandfather’s footsteps and works as muscle for the Zacharov crime family. With a family full of Workers, Cassel’s lack of abilities makes him an outsider. He is also haunted by the memory of the murder of his childhood friend Lila; a murder that he committed.
Cassel’s reality is upended when he begins having dreams about a white cat. After a sleepwalking stint involving a rooftop leaves adults questioning his mental state, Cassel is placed on medical leave and must stay with his family until it is safe to let him back into school. It is clear that all is not well on the home front. Philip’s wife Maura looks to be wasting away and hallucinating, middle brother Barron is losing his memory, and someone is drugging Granddad. To make matters worse, Lila is haunting Cassel’s dreams.
With the help of a white barn cat, Cassel begins to uncover the holes in his memory, discovering what actually happened to Lila and the truth about his rare working abilities. After thwarting an assassination attempt and gaining a job with the Zacharov family, life seems to be settling down. That is until Cassel’s mom is released from jail.
Cassel can pull off the perfect con, but is left blind-sided when he finds himself to be a Mark. White Cat shows Cassel’s search for truth and struggle with the phenomenon of trust. While the story did feel like one big set up for the sequel, it was exciting to unravel the hidden truth of the past alongside Cassel. Now that he’s aware of his abilities and free from his brother’s mind altering, I am excited to see what kind of trouble Cassel and his friends get into next.
White Cat by Holly Black is a fun gangster-gone-fantasy novel that breaks away from the more heavily overused fantasy themes. I would recommend White Cat to fans of Black’s other novels, as well as those who enjoy the urban fantasy genre.
fantasy books meme: protagonists [5/5]
↳ cassel sharpe:
clever as the devil and twice as pretty
Can I just say, White Cat is one of my favorite books. I didn’t understand it so much when I first read it years ago, but it’s so amazing now I’m reading it again (and the rest of the series) and I’m so sad there’s not a lot of fics for it so guess who’s gonna fill up the section with everything I plan to write
I currently have a lot of Curse Workers nostalgia. Guess I need to reread/listen to it.
“Like a stage magician, the con artist misdirects suspicion. While everyone’s watching for him to pull a rabbit out of a hat, he’s actually sawing a girl in half. You think he’s doing one trick when he’s actually doing another. You think that I’m dying, but I’m laughing at you. I hate that I love this. I hate that the adrenaline pumping through the roots of my body is filling me with giddy glee. I’m not a good person.” - White Cat by Holly Black [x]
There are a ton of horrid siblings in lit, but Cassel Sharpe’s older brothers from the Curse Workers series are arguably the worst in my opinion.
Poor Cassel, but I enjoyed his revenge con a ton. I want to reread it (..again) soon.
ideal date: playing street fighter with your boyfriend in your shared dorm, ft. cassel sitting on the couch like a weirdo
“This, the language of deception, we both understand. We were born to it, along with the curses.”
Lila and Cassel from “The Curse Workers” by Holly Black because honestly Holly Black’s books don’t get the credit they deserve.