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.
Tell Me More: I’ve spent about two months thinking about this book and its ending, without any real satisfaction to be found. While I enjoyed the final installment of the Curse Workers series, I still find it lacking in many ways.
Holly Black is one of my favourite authors, and I am a great admirer of her writing style. The rough edges of her prose thrill me to no end and her books are–in my opinion–staples of urban fantasy literature for all ages. Most of her books combine character and plot to create organic stories, but the Curse Workers series is notable for how it’s focused on characters, specifically Cassel Sharpe. While we are intrigued by Lila and her Mafia-esque family, it’s clear that Cassel is the one to watch. As Black Heart opens, Cassel is heading toward an inevitable choice between the people he loves and doing the “right” thing. The stage has been set, but the players are still fumbling in the dark. While reading this book, I felt like I was blinded too–revelations come out of nowhere to slam Cassel’s choices. It does feel as though you’re just barely holding onto a speeding car. That said, I find myself questioning the pace because it doesn’t allow the reader to come to terms with everything that’s happening to Cassel and Lila.
Halfway through the book, I started to feel like I’d lost track of Cassel. His choices seemed erratic and his way of thinking wasn’t the sharp (pardon the pun) wit I’d grown used to in the previous books. There was a weakness about him, a vulnerability that wasn’t present in White Cat and Red Glove which intrigued me far more than the actual plot. Unfortunately, the length of the book constricted those new touches. He spends so much time being strong and trying to stay ahead of everyone else that the initial spark of Cassel Sharpe is lost in the background.
That is the reason why the ending rings hollow to me. I don’t feel like that Cassel is the one I knew in previous books, despite arguments like “he’s changed for the better!” A happy ending needs to be justified and while part of me is fangirling, the other half firmly believes that there needed to be more of an emotional growth to make the ending worth savouring. Very few of the major issues between Cassel and Lila are actually worked out, and even though Holly Black fixes some in realistic and believable ways, they can’t possibly be enough to get the kids through the rest of their lives. I appreciated the sense of potential, of the future that lies ahead for both of them. That doesn’t mean I think potential can make everything work.
To be fair, I did enjoy this book. It had the same dangerous flavour and witty exchanges that have become the Curse Worker hallmarks. I just wish there was more for Cassel than a ride into the sunset.
The Final Say: Holly Black will have you savouring every page of the final chapter in Cassel Sharpe’s deadly world, and wishing there was much more of it to be had.