Review: Black Heart

Author: Holly Black
Date of Publication: April 3 2012
Pages: 296
Source: Library
Series: Third book in Curse Workers. Book 1: White Cat, Book 2: Red Glove

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.


If there is one thing I am a sucker for, it is moral ambiguity. It's a topic that I consistently seek out (let's just ignore what this says about me) and it was a theme in Black Heart.

Cassel has to make some tough decisions. He's torn between his family's life of crime and the government. He wants to make the right choice; he wants to be good, but it's super hard for him because nobody is honest and there is no clear choice as to what to do. Cassel was in a true bind and I sympathized with him. He's already one of my favourite characters due to his resourcefulness and thoughtfulness, and I was curious to see what choice he would make.

There's also a sensitive side to Cassel; one that is particularly prominent whenever he thinks of or is around Lila. Their romance was so sweet and I loved it. They truly know each other, the good and the bad and Black did a fantastic job of demonstrating why their relationship was so strained.

A definite strength of Holly Black is her ability to write of morally ambiguous characters and make us love them or accept the possibility of their redemption, no matter how bad they are supposed to be. People are people and a choice is a choice. Everyone has them and everyone is defined by them. The characters in Black Heart demonstrate the different levels of ethics while remaining individuals.

I've said this numerous times and I'll repeat myself like a broken record: the world, the premise is absolutely amazing. It's the type of world you daydream about, not because it's particularly perfect, but because there are so many possibilities. The idea that everyone must wear gloves; that some people have skills that others don't; that there a societal rift between workers and nonworkers just works so well. Is genuinely interesting and imaginative.

I feel like I raved too much about this book so I'll end off with what I didn't like. I recently read a book and complained that nothing really meaningful happened. I have the opposite complaint for Black Heart. There were many well defined story lines that moved along at a brisk pace. So much was happening that I never got a chance to catch my breath, so to speak, as a reader. It's probably awful to say this but I want more fluff! I want to read more about Cassel and his world. It makes me sad to think of how brief our time together has been.

That being said, I thought the ending was great; a good mix of closure and potential. I was happy and very satisfied, I just wish it took longer to get to that point. I probably am spoiled. Anyway, I really liked Black Heart. I flipped through the pages very quickly, and was totally absorbed in the story. This means 4 hearts, for a book I really liked.



  1. I really enjoyed this series, and I loved how morally gray the characters were- very refreshing in YA. I also loved how complex Cassel was, constantly torn between doing what was right and his loyalty to his family and even his devotion to Lila. And his snarky attitude was one of the highlights of the series for me. Great review!

    1. Definitely agree. He's so resourceful and smart, I'll miss that.



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