Book Reviews

Review: “Black Heart,” Holly Black

July 11, 2016
Review: “Black Heart,” Holly BlackBlack Heartby Holly Black
Series: Curse Workers #3
Published by Margaret K. McElderry on April, 2012
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 296
Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia

In a world where Magic is illegal, Cassel Sharpe has the most deadly ability of all. With one touch, he can transform any object - including a person - into something else entirely. And that makes him a wanted man. The Feds are willing to forgive all his past crimes if he'll only leave his con artist family behind and go straight. But why does going straight feel so crooked?

For one thing, it means being on the opposite side of the law from Lila, the girl he loves. She's the daughter of a mob boss and getting ready to join the family business herself. Though Cassel is pretty sure she can never love him back, he can't stop obsessing over her. Which would be bad enough, even if her father wasn't keeping Cassel's mother prisoner in a posh apartment and threatening not to let her leave until she returns the priceless diamond she scammed off him years ago. Too bad she can't remember where she put it.

The Feds say they need Cassel to get rid of a powerful man who is spinning dangerously out of control. But if they want Cassel to use his unique talent to hurt people, what separates the good guys from the bad ones? Or is everyone just out to con him?

Time is running out, and all Cassel's magic and cleverness might not be enough to save him. With no easy answers and no one he can trust, love might be the most dangerous gamble of all.

While I’m not quite ready for it to be over, I found Black Heart to be a satisfying ending to Holly Black’s Curse Workers trilogy. Although it didn’t live up to the high that was White Cat, it was a solid and entertaining read.

 “That’s family for you. Can’t live with them, can’t murder them.”

Once again, Cassel Sharpe manages to keep the reader in the dark until the very end. I love witnessing his cons unfold; utterly clueless as to what he’s got in store for his mark. As I’ve said previously, he’s such a great narrator and is one of the only characters that I’ve found can really walk the fine line between good and bad. Somehow you don’t seem to mind that he’s sort of a criminal.

His relationship with Lila is a highlight of this series for me. It’s always complicated, troubled and also based on an interesting shared history. I don’t think anyone else could understand Cassel, nor could anyone else relate so much to Lila. I’m so happy they were able to find a happy ending in Black Heart, and that nothing was left unsaid. It was the main thing I wanted to be played out in full with this series.

 “Girls like her turn into women with eyes like bullet holes and mouths made of knives. They are always restless. They are always hungry. They are bad news. They will drink you down like a shot of whisky. Falling in love with them is like falling down a flight of stairs.”

The plot in Black Heart was a little more Red Glove than White Cat, with some mini-stories going on in front of the main arc. There’s the ‘fake bribe’ between Mina and the Dean, Cassel’s mother being under house arrest at the Zacharov’s, the resurrection stone, etc. With the Prop 2 movement and Cassel’s involvement with the Feds as the main focus, I found I was actually enjoying the smaller plot threads this time. I found the Feds storyline a bit ‘eh’ and uninteresting, but I’ll admit I was unsure about whether Cassel was right to trust them OR Barron – I love when things become unpredictable!

A nice little piece of this book was Daneca’s relationship with Barron. Who would have guessed it? At first I was a bit taken aback, but after Cassel found her picture in his brother’s wallet, I was like ‘aww… okay…’ I was actually a bit saddened to see she’d gone back with Sam, especially after Cassel noted that he had never seen her smile the way she had with Barron. I get that Barron might not have changed, but it was still a twinge in the gut.

 “She wears trouble like a crown. If she ever falls in love, she’ll fall like a comet, burning the sky as she goes.”

At some points in this series, I was frustrated that Cassel’s ability to transform objects wasn’t as utilised. He could’ve made a resurrection stone for Zacharov – couldn’t he? He also could’ve transformed the gun he stole from Gage until he was ready to have it appear again, rather than hiding it in his closet where it might have been found. I understand that blowback might have had something to do with Cassel’s decision not to use the power, but a little nod to the fact that he ‘could’ or that he had even thought about it would’ve been nice.

While both Red Glove and Black Heart don’t quite live up to White Cat, I would’ve happily continued on with this series had Holly Black written more than three books. I’d love to see some more stories set in this universe – or even short stories!

About Holly Black

Holly Black spent her early years in a decaying Victorian mansion where her mother fed her a steady diet of ghost stories and faerie tales. An avid collector of rare folklore volumes, spooky dolls, and crazy hats, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Theo, in a house with a secret library.

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