Saturday, 9 June 2012

Review: Black Heart by Holly Black

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.

Holly Black is one of the triumavate of authors at the top of fantastic young adult urban fantasy (the other two being Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan) and she just doesn’t disappoint – in fact I think her books just get better and better the more she writes.

I have loved the Curse Workers series since the first book ‘White Cate’ graced our shelves and each book has been consistently even more awesome. In fact the only reason that I didn’t want to read ‘Black Heart’ was because I didn’t want this series to ever end. Unfortunately all good things more, or so I’m told, come to an end, and Cassel’s story goes out with a bang.

This series is genius – absolute genius I tell you, because it has kept me guessing at every single turn. I never know how things are going to play out, who might be double crossing who, and who is secretly double crossing everyone else for their own agenda. Normally with a book I can see roughly where we’re going with it, so I find it especially exciting when there’s a book that genuinely keeps me hanging until the very last moment when everything drops into place.

Cassel. Oh Cassel baby where would I be without you? He is one of my favourite young adult male protagonists, and Black Heart has done nothing more than cement his position in my heart. He’s brooding, he’s tortured, but he’s funny and snarky and always tries so hard to do the right thing, to protect those he cares about and he’s in this constant battle against everyone and everything, including himself and his inner demons. But he doesn’t wallow in his brooding torturedness, he’s no Heathcliffe wandering the moors. Instead he goes out and does everything in his power to try and keep the upper hand and protect his friends, and above all his family. He’s in this eternal guilt and power struggle, but it’s been fascinating to see his arc through this series, to see how he’s matured and developed and come into his own power and discovered himself. It’s been an incredible journey full of twists and turns and double crossing and sneaking and I’ve loved every moment of it.

Speaking of double crossing and families, can we take just a moment to also appreciate the audacious badassery of Barron? He’s been a bit of a fabulous loose cannon ever since the start of the series, but I’ve really loved to see his character develop – no he’s probably never going to adopt a kitten and help old ladies across the street, but he has grown and developed over the course of the books so we established by the end that he may even have a heart and a core of goodness hidden in there somewhere. I have to say I’ve found Barron’s story incredibly intriguing right from the start. To be able to work memories but lose your own in the process, to have to leave notes and photographs all over the place in preparation for the next memory you might lose – it’s heart breaking and twisted and brilliant and I would totally be on board of a Barron spin off… Just saying… I’ve also loved seeing how Barron and Cassel’s relationship has developed. It’s never going to be hugs and brotherly love in the traditional sense, but their loyalty and bond was one of the most fascinating things for me in this series.

The other of course being Lila and Cassel’s relationship. I have loved watching these two dance around each other – they are so bad at communicating it isn’t even funny, so to finally have some progress and communication between them was a payoff well worth waiting for. It’s steamy and tender and bittersweet and I just adored their relationship.

“Falling in love with them is like falling down a flight of stairs. What no one told me, with all those warnings, is that even after you’ve fallen, even after you know how painful it is, you’d still get in line to do it again.” 

I have loved the concept from the start, the idea of the blowback, of the mobs and the gangs and the undercover workers – the whole idea is seamlessly brilliant. I wholeheartedly recommend this series to, well, pretty much anyone actually. Fans of magic, of urban fantasy, of crimes and mobs and smooth talking bad boys, of family dynamics and romance will all love this, but ultimately anyone who’s a fan of a fantastically written and crafted book should pick up this series because you won’t be disappointed.

“But now I wonder--what if everyone is pretty much the same and it's just a thousand small choices that add up to the person you are? No good or evil, no black and white, no inner demons or angels whispering the right answers in our ears like it's some cosmic SAT test. Just us, hour by hour, minute by minute, day by day, making the best choices we can.
The thought is horrifying. If that's true, then there's no right choice. There's only choice.” 


  1. I have the first book in the series just waiting for me to pick it up. I'm so glad to see that you love it so much. Thanks for the great review

    1. Oooo read it! This is one of my favourite series, it is utterly fantastic!
      Thanks for reading :)