By Casey Wilson
Black Heart is the fitting and fantastic final volume in Holly Black’s Curseworkers trilogy. (Like that alliteration? Yeah, I break out the big guns for this blog.) The first two books in the series – White Cat and Red Glove – created a rich and vibrant world just a little different than our own, where everyone wears gloves because of the threat of Curseworker magic, which can kill or heal or transform people with the touch of a finger. It’s a mixture of dark fantasy and noir and even a little bit of fairy tale, with con artists and mafia families thrown in for good measure.
When Black Heart picks up, our protagonist Cassel Sharpe is trying to balance all of the volatile forces that surround him – the feds, who want him to sign on board their operation; the crime family headed up by his ex-girlfriend’s father, who wants him to recover some stolen property; his own family, which he can never quite trust; his friendships, which have suffered from all his secrets; and his schoolwork, which often has to take a backseat to everything else. In short: he’s a busy, busy teenager.
I don’t want to go into too much detail of the novel’s plot, because it’s one that delights in twists and turns – a delight that’s never lessened on those occasions when you can see the twists coming, because Black does such fine work stitching the hints into the narrative at large. Nor do I want to spoil the ending, but to say that Black stays true to Cassel in a way that most authors might not and thus creates a legitimately surprising and powerful conclusion.
You must, of course, start with White Cat, if you wish to be truly immersed in this world. But I assure you, it’s worth the commitment. Black’s trilogy is full of tight and taut storytelling, and Black Heart certainly lives up to the high bar set by its predecessors.
Casey is a PhD student.