Monday, June 17, 2013

BLACK HEART


Review of BLACK HEART by HOLLY BLACK
(third in THE CURSE WORKERS series)

I loved this book so much that this might be a shorter review. As I’m reading I always make mental notes of what to say (compliments and criticisms alike), but BLACK HEART pulled me so intensely into this world that I shut off that part of my brain and just enjoyed a great book.

WHITE CAT jumped right into the story with Cassel waking up to find himself in his boxers on a ledge on the school roof. BLACK HEART has a similarly immediately engaging opening: Cassel and his brother Baron staking out (aka stalking) Lila. It’s a humorous and dramatic scene all at the same time, a tone Black manages with unexpected frequency.

There’s so much going on in this story I don’t quite know where to start in describing it. Cassel has love problems, school problems, family problems, law enforcement problems, mob problems, magic problems. (It started out as a fairly normal list, huh?) While Black doesn’t fall into the trap of tying everything together too neatly, many distinct plot threads intersect in surprising ways, giving the realistic sense that you can’t isolate different parts of your life - as much as you might want to do so.

BLACK HEART contains no small number of fantastic suspense and danger moments. This touches on exactly why I struggled keeping my reviewer brain alert. In some scenes, my mind was already busy working overtime imagining how in the world Cassel will survive this latest dilemma. The highest stakes moment made me, like Cassel, finally understand the full extent of why his particular magical power is so feared and coveted.

Great opening, but also great ending. Cassel can’t have an easy life after everything he’s been through, but there’s hope he’ll have a relatively happy one. Black finds a closing point that satisfies and resolves all the major plot points while still remaining fairly open-ended, a positive ending in itself given that Cassel has felt limited and constrained by tough choices his whole life. He doesn’t have a happily-ever-after and he does have numerous traumatic events in his past that will no doubt haunt him the rest of his life, but Cassel does find the one thing he’s clearly craved since book one: freedom.

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