Plot: Cassel lives in a world where magic exists and it is illegal. He used to think that he didn’t have any powers aside from his ability to lie and con, but he was wrong. He has the rarest power of all and that means that the government, the mob and everyone in between wants to control him. Cassel has avoided murder charges and kept his mother out of jail, for now, but he is far from safe. He finds himself being manipulated by a government agency and threatened by the mob. Escaping both organisations alive may require the greatest con of his life.
Holly Black just blows me away. She should write all the books! …Okay, that may not be entirely reasonable but I think everyone should read the books that she does write. I couldn’t put this novel down until I was done. That was unfortunately very late on a worknight but I regret nothing.
In Black Heart, Cassel is caught up in a dangerous and nearly hopeless situation. The government wants to control him and the magical mob threatens him and his family. The ways in which he lies and tricks his way out of these problems (and occasionally into them) is endlessly fascinating. We also find that he is not the only con “man” in the book, nor is he immune to being conned. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, trying to sort through the lies and figure out what was really going on. Which isn’t simple, because as Cassel tells us, the truth is always more complicated than a lie.
Meanwhile the characters are amazing! Cassel is not your typical hero: he lies to everyone and though he tries to so the right thing, his methods can be unorthodox. He might get it from his family: his remaining brother is also a compulsive liar (in part because he can’t remember the truth), his mother is manipulative and unrepentant and his grandfather is someone who will teach Cassel’s friends to cheat at poker and show them burlesque. Of course, that’s what I like about them. No one is simply good or bad. Everyone is complicated. And speaking of complicated, there is Lila. Lila is a character who has grown a great deal over the course of the series: she started as Cassel’s idealized first love but the real Lila is as angry, proud and dangerous as she is beautiful. Their romance is a messy and painful thing. This book also introduces the young death worker Gage. He has a relatively small role but I would love to read more about him.
I won’t tell you how it ends because you should just read the book but I will say that it was the perfect ending to an amazing series.
Holly Black’s next novel, due out in Spring 2013, will be a middle grade novel about ghosts entitled Doll Bones. In Black’s own words: “It’s about three kids — Zachary, Poppy and Alice — who go on a journey, despite their own uncertain friendship, to bury a doll that may or may not be haunted.” I can’t wait!