Mandy Reviews: Holly Black's - "Black Heart"


Black Heart is the third book in Holly Black’s Curse Worker series, following up from White Cat and Red Glove. You can read my and Kylie Fox’s reviews of them [intlink id=”8055″ type=”post”]HERE[/intlink] and [intlink id=”8029″ type=”post”]HERE[/intlink] at Burn Bright.

Black Heart picks up almost immediately from where Red Glove finished up. Cassel Sharpe is in deep trouble. After finding out his not-so-charming brothers have been using him for years as an assassin and then wiping and replacing his memories, he’s trying to get on with life. He’s trying to be good. He’s trying to win back the girl he’s loved for longer than he can remember (which, considering he’s a bit hazy on the memory-front, is a tricky situation) and he’s trying to stay alive. And that’s where things get complicated. The Feds want him to do their dirty work, and so does the Mob. But who’s telling the truth? You’d think that growing up in a family of con artists would make Cassel an expert on picking fact from fiction, but it’s not always that easy when you’ve been raised to believe the government is the enemy and the love of your life is the daughter of the Mob boss.

In a world where an ungloved, naked hand is classed as a deadly weapon and Curse Workers like Cassel and his family are both feared and sought after, nothing is as it seems.

The Curse Worker’s series took a little while to hit its stride. Red Glove was a much stronger book than White Cat, and the same applies again for Black Heart. Cassel is finally a character that the reader can relate to and like, flaws and all. Deep down, he’s a good guy. It just depends on which side of the fence your alliances sit. Told in first person, we get a great insight into the way Cassel works through things in his mind; how he steps through each con, how he figures out how to con the con artist. Black Heart is clever in its set-up and delivery of the not-so-unexpected twist – it’s just that the twist isn’t so easy to spot until you’re deep within it.

While Cassel might be a more likeable character, I did miss some of the others. Cassel’s grandfather, a retired Death Worker, only makes a small appearance, which is a shame. The rest of Cassel’s family are here – his mother as despicable as ever (seriously, it’s about time you divorced yourself from her, Cassel) and while it’s easy to hate older brother Barron, even he has a moment where it’s impossible not to feel sad for him. A small subplot, while making things more complicated for Cassel at school, does nothing much except give Sam a little air time – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

If you enjoyed White Cat and Red Glove, you’ll *love* Black Heart. It’s more complex than the first two, but worth it. As with the others, I enjoyed the explanation of the way con artists work, how they pick their mark, carry out the crime and sometimes… they even score.

Black Heart by Holly Black.

Published by Gollancz / Orion.

Paperback – 296 pages.

ISBN – 978-0-575-09680-6


  • Joelene

    Want to read this review so badly but can’t because I’ve only finished White Cat. Love Holly Black!

  • mdepierres

    Keep your eyes closed Joelene!

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