Review: Black Heart by Holly Black


Black HeartBlack Heart by Holly Black (Margaret K. McElderry, 2012)

Blurb: 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.


I think the Curseworkers may be my favorite YA urban fantasy series. The writing is crisp and witty, the story line is unique, the pacing is peppy, the characters are well-developed and realistic, and the world-building is superb. These are fantastic books and I can’t recommend them enough.

The first book, White Cat, was the story of Cassel’s self-discovery. Red Glove explored how he dealt with what he’d learned and tried to move forward, and Black Heart is all about Cassel taking control of his life. Romance is front and center in this book, which makes sense—he’s dealt with the fallout of his feelings without ever dealing with the relationship itself.

Over the course of the series, Cassel has grown from a naïve non-magic-worker to a cynical pawn in other people’s games: various crime families, the Feds. But he’s smart, and he’s spent his entire life learning how to run a con, and in this book the elements all come together for Cassel to finally run a con of his own. Once again Black managed to completely surprise me with her plotting. When I look back at the series I can see how she laid out off the elements and how everything fit together, but when I’m reading it, I’m not analyzing at all, I’m just enjoying the ride. That’s the mark of a good storycrafter.

 Black Heart is the third book in the series, and while it read as though it was the final book, I’ve seen a new, fourth book listed. I am curious as to whether this will be the further adventures of Cassel and Lila or the new adventures of a secondary character. Either way, it’s on my TBR list!


My rating: 4 stars


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