Sunday, June 10, 2012

Black Heart by Holly Black

DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW WITHOUT FIRST READING WHITE CAT AND RED GLOVE. I do not want to spoil the magic that is reading Holly Black’s Curseworkers series for anyone.

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon and Schuster)
Pages: 296
Series or Stand Alone: Book Three in Holly Black’s FLAWLESS Curseworkers trilogy
Summary: Cassel Sharpe knows he’s been used as an assassin, but he’s trying to put all that behind him. He’s trying to be good, even though he grew up in a family of con artists and cheating comes as easily as breathing to him. He’s trying to do the right thing, even though the girl he loves is inextricably connected with crime. And he’s trying to convince himself that working for the Feds is smart, even though he’s been raised to believe the government is the enemy.
But with a mother on the lam, the girl he loves about to take her place in the Mob, and new secrets coming to light, the line between what’s right and what’s wrong becomes increasingly blurred. When the Feds ask Cassel to do the one thing he said he would never do again, he needs to sort out what’s a con and what’s truth. In a dangerous game and with his life on the line, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet—this time on love.

I have been looking forward to this book since the first time I read the last page of Red Glove. That is all.
Despite a remarkable criminal history as both a con artist and an assassin, Cassel Sharpe is attempting to turn his life around. Going against the community he grew up in, the girl he loves, and his own intuition, Cassel trains with the Feds in order to find a different use for his dangerous transformation powers. Only, it turns out that the Feds want exactly the same things from Cassel that the Mob did. With the help of Lila and his unreliable brother Barron, Cassel has to figure out who’s playing him and how he can possibly live free from ties to people who want to use him.
Just when you thought that the Curseworkers books couldn’t get any better, Holly Black slapped you in the face with the “gosh you’re wrong” stick and handed you a copy of Black Heart. Her characterization is flawless. Cassel continues being plagued by internal conflicts, with his crime upbringing battling with his desire to be a good person and help the Feds. This, of course, becomes even more complicated when the Feds begin to manipulate him and he no longer knows who is in the right. Does Cassel ever just sit around and brood about how difficult his life is, even though is one of the few characters I think might just deserve to? NO! He is constantly thinking about his situations, the people he cares about around him, and acting in order to preserve their safety (though not usually his own, as can definitely be evidenced by some of his choices). That’s why he’s so wonderful.
Then we have Lila. Fierce, used-to-be-a-cat-for-awhile-but-is-better-now Lila, who is now officially a part of the Zacharov crime family with a second smile to prove it. Now that she’s come out of her emotion working (thanks to Cassel’s mother) she’s pretty pissed, making her even more of a force to be reckoned with. But Lila also has a well expressed vulnerability that doesn’t get in the way of her totally kicking ass and taking names.
I was stressed out throughout a significant portion of this book. I find a high literary stress level to be a wonderful sign for a book--if I’m stressed out about a character, it means that I care immensely about them. It means I’ve forgotten that a character, say Cassel Sharpe, is entirely the figment of someone’s imagination and therefore has a future already outlined for him. With his situation with the Feds and his familial ties to organized crime, I could not figure out how Cassel was going to avoid being used as a transformation working pawn for the rest of his life. The story that results from this is a fantastic, action/mystery/magic-driven tale that made me hurt every time I had to put the book down.
With Black Heart, Holly Black proves that there’s a damn good way to create the perfect end to a trilogy. The entirety of Cassel Sharpe’s story is brilliantly executed with a well-imagined alternate world, awesomely grey characters (meaning not black and white-nothing is simple in these books), and plots that just don’t quit. In case you haven’t noticed, I would recommend this series to anyone and everyone.

Rating: 5 - woo!

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