Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Black Heart, by Holly Black- Review

In the interest of full disclosure I'm going to tell you right up front that Holly Blacks Curse Worker series has been one of my favourite ongoing series since the day White Cat came out.  When that first flurry of negative reviews came out I was astounded, surely they weren't reading the same book I was?  Because this series is 100 forms of awesome.

Also in the interest of full disclosure, I'm currently totally loaded up on Percocet for a case of Shingles (apparently I turned 80 sometime this past week and nobody thought to mention it), so my already fawning love of these books might get a bit out of control.  Consider yourself warned.

I'm not going to synopsis you, this is book three so you know the drill: Cassel Sharpe and his family of crazy con artists are in trouble.  There's a series of crazy twists and nothing is what it seems.  Sociopaths, criminals and surprises fill the pages with moral dilemmas Cassel has to wade through in his quest to be a better person. In a word, it's Delicious.

In my yearly tribute to the Oscars (My Book Oscars, clever right? I know. Shut up, I'm on Percocet, though to be fair, I was totally sober when I first came up with the Book Oscars), I awarded the best actor to Cassel, and it remains true in Black Heart.   He is the single most nuanced character I can think of in my very large collection of YA.  Constantly struggling with the morals in every situation, Cassel wants to be a better person, yet thoroughly loves many aspects of his criminal upbringing.  Plus he's the Curse Worker to beat all Curse Workers, and it's a temptation and threat to himself and any single person who knows his secret.  And by Black Heart way too many people know his secret.

Cassels contradictory desires are perfectly summed up in his relationship with Lila.  Now sworn to her mob boss father, Lila is in no way the good girl, she never will be, nor does she have any desire to be.  Yet despite his constant struggle with doing the right thing, Cassel loves her completely as she is.  He has no interest in foisting his morals on her, and her chosen path is only a vague worry to him, and then only more of how can he be romantically linked to her without damaging her standing as the one day Crime Lord Boss.

As wonderful as Cassel is, Black doesn't short shift her other fantastic characters.  Barron, Sam and Daneca all have intriguing developments and downright surprising/shocking emotional twists.  In fact some of them were so impressive they outshone some of the plot twists.

In the end it was the perfect finish to the series.  And although she has no current plans to come back to the it, I truly loved that she ended it in a way she could.  As the hubby announced after wrapping up the series himself- She HAS to write more!  I couldn't agree more.  The world she has built, the characters she has made us fall in love with, they're too amazing to be left after only three books.  Hopefully her ending means she's open to the idea of someday setting off on another curse worker adventure, god knows Cassel and his family are full of possibilities.

And in a total aside to this review (remember I'm thoroughly high right now, though I have to say Justified and Nurse Jackie raised my expectations a little too high about Oxy and Percocet.  I just feel like a sloppy drunk right now):

Because he's a wonderful boy who was obviously put on earth just to marry me, the hubby started reading White Cat while I was reading Black Heart.  Both because I wanted him to and also because I'm always crabbing that when I finish a great book I want to gab about it, and NOBODY is ever reading what I'm reading (in person, obviously I need to start a book club).

One of the things we were thoroughly intrigued by was how much ground Black covers in such short books.  All three are around the 300 page mark, which is becoming very small fries these days. And yet she tells a rich, very full story in easily 200 pages less than a lot of similar books.  It makes you really wonder about how much filler you're reading on average.  Somehow Black is writing a complex story, full of detail, but with a magical economy of words.  It's an intriguing puzzle, and oddly enough it reminds me of a recent post of Maggie Stiefvater's about word counts in WIP, another author who writes totally fulfilling stories that tend to be shorter.  What are your thoughts on manuscript lengths and what you get at different densities? 

Check out my review of White Cat and Red Glove, the amazing first two books of the series.  I defy you not to love the Curse Workers.

Black Heart, by Holly Black
Published by Margaret K. McElderry, April 3rd 2012


  1. I love when readers are happy with the conclusion to a series. I've been wanting to read this series for a long time. I have Black Heart but I have to get my hands on the first two.

  2. Black Heart lets us dive once more into the rich alternate reality of Cassel's world. Leaving your customers satisfied isn't always easy, but this book leaves me with all the important details taken care of and a story so real it feels as if I saw it happen. Well worth your time, money, and the piece of your heart it takes.

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