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YA, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Noir Mystery, 296 pages, Margaret K. McElderry
- Series: 3rd in the Curseworkers Trilogy (1st: White Cat, 2nd: Red Glove)
- Pub date: April 3rd 2012
- Disclosure: Bought a copy! Yay!
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.The Long...
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.
Typing "noir mystery" into the genre section of this review was the biggest blogging thrill I have had in some time. There's something about a hardboiled detective story that I can't help but love--archetypes and atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere--and ever since Holly Black came out with the first Curseworkers novel back in 2010, I've been a fan of the series and its own particular spin on the noir genre. (Fun fact: White Cat was the first ARC I ever received.) Black's curseworking mythology--healing, giving luck, taking away memories, killing--fits so well with the mobster side of the story that it's hard to remember at times that this world doesn't actually exist. White Cat and Red Glove were easily among the most imaginative YA fantasy novels I've ever had the pleasure of reading, and Black Heart is more of the same.
Still, something about this one felt not quite like the rest. The plotting felt a little looser, the subplots wackier, the romance less pulse-pounding, Cassel's double- and triple-crossings a little more wearying, the ending less than satisfying. If I didn't know better, I'd say Black was resting on her (well-deserved) laurels. Since I do know better, I'll just say that this book must have been a damn sight harder to write. The characters I'd known and loved for two books and almost 600 previous pages just weren't the same, and it made me sad.
It certainly didn't help that White Cat and Red Glove weren't exactly fresh in my mind--Black doesn't waste any time reacquainting us with her creation, and dives right into the action instead. In fact, it took me three books to notice, but this is a trilogy that doesn't read like a trilogy of distinct novels at all, but rather three parts of the same--think Lord of the Rings. If you haven't read the first two, don't bother with this one. They're probably more enjoyable back to back, anyway.
Did this book disappoint me? A little. Is it still a kickass piece of creative, brilliant, riveting YA fantasy? Absolutely. I'm sad to bid farewell to the curseworking universe, but I'm thrilled to see what Black brings us next.
...and the Short:
A less-than-totally-satisfying, but still pretty awesome, conclusion to one of the most imaginative YA fantasy series out there. Bring on the femme fatales!
The Final Word: Liked it.