Holly Black’s Curse Workers series is one that we’ve all (with the exception of Katie, because she’s silly and doesn’t like mob books) obsessed about for a while. I still remember getting to the end of Red Glove and feeling like I was going to lose my mind with the need to have Black Heart in my hands instantaneously. And the waiting was pretty terrible. I tried to console myself with the (spectacular and highly recommended) audiobooks of White Cat and Red Glove, but I needed to know how these characters ended up. I can honestly say that I think Black Heart, even if I’m annoyed they changed the cover on me, is one of the most satisfying series conclusions I’ve ever read.
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.
Black Heart was a must read for me. This series is amazing, visually and psychologically. You can’t trust anyone, not even yourself. Cassel has been through so much at this point, I’m honestly surprised he’s not just breaking down and crying every few minutes. But that’s not Cassel. He bucks up. He does what he has to in order to help his family and himself survive. He lives in torment watching his love, Lila, work her way into the crime family business. Holly Black manages to convey all this and still throw in the occasional line that makes you laugh, rather loudly, while in public. It almost always happened while I was in public reading this book. I’ll give you an example:
“Refills are free,” the waitress tells us with a frown, like she’s hoping we’re not the kind of people who ask for endless refills.
I am already pretty sure we are exactly those people.
She just throws this stuff in at the most random times. There is serious business going on, like murder, espionage and blackmail, but then this insanely, yet brilliantly placed line comes along to make you feel like it’s all going to be all right as long as Cassel keeps his sense of humor.
The ending — because I have to talk about the ending — was one I was not expecting. How Cassel got out of that still amazes me. There are answers and problems are resolved, but it’s still left very open-ended. My one note, the one I was afraid was going to happen, was at least it didn’t have a sad ending. There were a lot of ways things could have gone horribly for Cassel, but in the end, at least it wasn’t sad.
I was so excited to read this book. Cassel, Cassel, Cassel!!!! I love Cassel! And Lila! And Danica and Sam. But mostly Cassel and his crazy relationship with his family and the love/hate they all seem to have for one another. When the book started I couldn’t see how Cassel was going to get through everything. The situation with the Feds, his families lawlessness, everything that had happened with Lilah, HOW COULD IT ALL TURN OUT WELL AT THE END???? Especially because I so did not want Cassel to turn into a strictly good guy working for the Feds. You know? I wanted him and Lilah to become head of the big crime family and live happily ever after doing bad things with a bit of conscience.
Now, obviously, I can’t tell you if that happens. I can say that Holly Black, once again, manages to weave together so many different plot strings and characters and little, tiny details until it all comes together at the end to blow your mind with the genius of Holly Black. There’s always so much going on in these books, never a dull moment, I’m always surprised when one of the students mentions having homework. How can ALL THIS be going on and they’re still going to class? I loved watching Cassel come into his abilities more and being more pro-active with them. I loved watching Lilah become more herself, and more in charge and confident. I love that in the Cassel/Lilah relationship Lilah has always been the aggressor, the more dominant, and that Cassel is enough of a man to admit that he likes it that way. That’s probably my favourite thing about them.
So, obviously I can’t spoil anything so I’m just going to say, I was pleased with the ending. It felt good to me. Not perfect but good. Can’t wait to see what Holly Black has in store for us next!
Kate: I think Black Heart may be the best book Holly Black has written yet. The writing was just so pitch perfect. It was sparse and clever and ambiguous, just like her story and her characters. I really can’t think of a more perfect conclusion to a series than Black Heart. It had everything I want in an ending. It resolved the outstanding issues, it had a plot all of its own, and, most importantly, it left me enough room that I could wonder about the characters. I’m a picky reader like that. I want to know juuuust enough, but never to much. And that’s excellent, because the thought of a book-life without Cassel in it is a serious bummer. I think, out of all the books, Cassel was my favorite in Black Heart, which is saying something. I really saw both where he was in his own mind and how he got there. And I saw him be awesome in ways I hadn’t previously seen (vague comments are vague, I know, but I can’t talk about the end without spoiling everything). I also really liked what happened with Barron. He’s not someone I liked at all, but I loved reading about him. I thought he was complicated in this book and layered and fascinating to read more about. Then again, most of the background characters in this book are. From Lilah to Cassel’s mother to the agents themselves. And I have to admit, what I really loved was that Cassel seemed like the moral compass of this story. Cassel! Who does all these terrible things but knows it, too. Cassel, who tries to make good choices but is, at his most basic, a survivor. I’m being completely serious when I say that I think Cassel would kick serious tail in The Hunger Games. I can’t wait until this is released on audiobook so that I can enjoy it all over again, only this time in the voice of Jesse Eisenberg!