Once again, I’m in love with Holly Black’s writing. Black Heart follows well on the heels of the first two books in the series, picking up with Cassel Sharpe’s tumultuous life following the events of Red Glove. The moment I finished it, the moment I wanted to pick up White Cat and begin reading the series again.
Just to review the Curse Workers‘ world, from my review of White Cat:
In White Cat, the world is not much different than ours. In fact, the only major difference that you could notice from casual observation is that everyone is wearing gloves. Anyone could potentially be a curse worker, and working is done through touch. A person can affect emotions, dreams, transformations, luck, memories, or even death, through the slightest touch. The unpredictability of working means that it quickly became illegal, relegating working to crime families and the mob. [...]
Working isn’t magic, per say, there’s not really a deep mythology, or even a reason behind it, though I hope it’s explored more in the sequel. It’s a really interesting concept, that anyone could affect a person’s dreams, emotions, even their appearance through transformation, by a simple touch. Not wearing gloves is equated with holding a loaded gun, and is perceived as such.
For Cassel Sharpe, who comes from a long line of mob-connected, con artist workers, it’s hard to be good. And he really is trying, but it’s difficult. His brother is a murdering traitor who used Cassel as an assassin, His mom is on the run from the law, and the governor is after her head–as well as the heads of all workers everywhere. On top of that, there’s a decent bit of drama between Cassel and Lila, who hates him because she was worked and feels used, and a blackmail plot crops up at Cassel’s school, further complicating his situation.
There’s a lot here that feels like it was taken from X-Men’s Mutant Registration act, but I didn’t care as I was reading it. That was the vehicle for one of Cassel’s significant dilemmas: will he cooperate with a potentially corrupt government organization that seems to be using him to achieve their own dark schemes? How far will he go in their service? How far will he go to protect Lila or his mother? How far will he go to protect his friends? In many ways, this was a book which tested the limits of Cassel’s resolve and his creative resourcefulness.
Black imbues Cassel with a dry wit which, in the middle of dire circumstances, is so pointed and relieving. The narrative is refreshingly frank and unpretentious, with plenty of twists and turns in the plot. I enjoyed it from start to finish. I’m not sure if there’s going to be a further book in the series or if it will remain a trilogy, but Black began to expand the mythology of the world just a bit with this book. I’d like to see that explored even more in subsequent works.