Title: Black Heart
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
May Contain Spoilers
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.
I am so sad that Cassel’s adventures have come to an end. I have loved the Curse Workers from the beginning of the series to the end. Cassel is a great character because while he is sincere and open with his thoughts and feelings, I never know whether or not I’m being played. A consummate con artist, Cassel has been running scams since he could crawl. His entire family is comprised of criminals; none of them can let an easy mark go. Only Cassel is looking for a different future, one with a high school diploma and the freedom from being thrown in jail. Too bad the fates are conspiring against him. When all is said and done, even Cassel is incapable of leaving the life of cons and shysters behind him.
I think Black Heart was the best outing of the series to date. It kept me guessing, as Cassel attempts to keep himself out of trouble with the Feds, the deadly crime boss Zacharov, and a psychopathic governor. His real problem is that he just can’t ignore a challenge. He just can’t let go of his connections with the crime world, and he is too smart for his own good. His love for Lily, Zacharov’s daughter, also guarantees that he’ll have a complicated time whether he wants it or not. The victim of his mother’s good intentions, Lily and Cassel are on the outs, and it seems as though they will never be able to reconcile their rocky relationship. Added to everything else, Cassel is still torn up with guilt over turning Lily into a cat. Yeah, I can see why this romance might not work out.
In the world of the curse workers, Cassel is the ultimate badass. He is a transformation worker, and he can turn anyone into anything. He is the perfect assassin. He is the perfect spy. Too bad he isn’t interested in being someone else’s weapon. Even though twisted, Cassel has a strict set of ethics. His brothers were able to get past this handicap by altering his memories. Stop for a moment and think about that. His brothers used him to commit murder, at their whim. I wish I could say that only his brothers used him for their personal gain. Cassel’s mother exploited him, too. His family is so dysfunctional that it’s a wonder he isn’t more messed up than he already is. He doesn’t even know if his memories are his own!
Cassel gets himself into all kinds of trouble, starting with the very poor decision to steal a gun from a hitman. If he could have only seen into the future, I bet that he would have left that gun right where it was. But no, he thinks that he’s a Fed in training, and he has to show off. That’s the funny thing about Cassel. He takes these stupid risks, he plays against the most outrageous odds, and most of the time, nobody is even aware of what he’s done. Then later, when the poop hits the fan, he has put on his dancing shoes to get himself out of even more trouble that he has brought on himself by doing inadvisable. That’s what I love about these books – little things build on each other, and before you know it, Cassel is up to his neck in trouble, mostly of his own making. Because he’s trying to be a good guy instead of a bad guy. Maybe he should just stick with being a bad guy; at least he understands most of the rules when he’s running a con.
I don’t want to give any of the plot away, so I’ll just urge you to take a chance on this series if you haven’t already. Go check White Cat out from your local library. You won’t be able to put it down! Then you will have to read Red Glove and Black Heart, so you might as well check them all out at the same time. Fans of mystery and suspense will eat these up. There’s a great romance in these books, too. I love the world building and the concept that every curse worker has to pay a price for using their ability. Most of all I love the characters. They are flawed and likable at the same time, and after getting to know them so well, I will miss Cassel and crew.
Review copy purchased from Amazon