Friday, August 15, 2014

Book Review - Holly Black's Black Heart

Black Heart (Curse Workers Book 3) by Holly Black
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: April 3rd, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Cassel is now "working" for the feds, though he is more freelance as he hasn't put pen to contract and he still wants to finish school. His main obsession though is still Lila. He's worried about her now that she's involved in her father's nefarious empire. All Cassel wants is the girl he can't have while walking the tightrope between good and evil. He really thought that he would be safe with the feds, but they just want to use him like his own brother's used him. The feds want Cassel to take out New Jersey's Governor so that the proposition to harm workers will disappear. It's not that the government is trying to use him that makes Cassel worried... it's that he doesn't follow their logic. Something is flawed and he things that maybe, just maybe, they are working against him as well. If he can just figure out everyone's motives and tell Lila the truth of his heart... well, maybe he could get a happy ending with the girl.

Let's talk about book series. They are the bane and bliss of readers. The bane because sometimes you just want to read a stand-alone book and these days, well, you're more likely to stumble into a series that you can't put down and have an obsessive need to finish then find a quick solo read. The bliss because, well, if you love the world and the story you never want it to end. But you can't just have a series to have a series. You really need a plot, a beginning, middle and end. You need something at stake, something that changes over time. While reading the Curse Workers books I was taken somewhere else and enjoyed the ride, but at the end, well, I'm left scratching my head.

Not much changes between the beginning of the series and the end. Cassel is still a killer, different then he thought but still a killer. So what was the goal of this series? For him to get the girl? To show the ineptitude of government? To show Cassel rise above his family's machinations? It's all so unclear. Was there a bad guy beaten and evil vanquished... no. Was there an epic battle with the fate of the world... again, no. If this series had been one book, well, it would have been an enjoyable book. But as a series... it feels forced and forgettable. Like the publisher told Holly Black, we're not taking it unless it's at least a trilogy and she acquiesced.

Speaking of publishers and series. If you are doing a series, one in which there is a new book every year, there is NO REASON to change the look of the books, the delivery time being so swift! I love how series look on my shelves. They have a weight, a presence that makes me sit back and admire them. There is nothing more likely to get my blood to boil then changing the look of the series. Ways in which to piss me off; change the size of the book, like the nice YA sized hardcovers to "Bestseller" size hardcovers. Change the initial release format, like paperback to hardcover or vice versa.

Worst of all though is what was perpetrated here on The Curseworkers. Change the style from photographic to really horrid crappy artwork. Yes, this is now a cover rant. What the heck is this cover in supposed to be? It's like a bad velvet painting with derivative 1970s type, but it you look at the swirls closer they're badly drawn people!?! The artwork is seriously bad high school level work. It's just bleck. I am 100% serious when I say that if this wasn't an author I liked I would never have picked up this book with this cover. In fact, I kind of didn't pick it up for the longest time... took me two years after publication to bother to pick it up, and I seriously considered getting it on kindle so that this hideous cover wouldn't darken my shelves.

So I should probably critique the contents of the book versus the covering... I'm sorry, this cover just, gaw. OK, the contents. As I have said, overall nothing much happens in the series. It's an enjoyable read, escapist, but it's this volume more then the previous that lets the series as a whole down and makes it forgettable. Up until Black Heart there was some interesting world building, some great characters that were more grey then black or white, and then the series went typical. How, are you asking, does a book with magic go typical?

Well, it became your bog standard mafia movie. Boy wants a better life, but it keeps pulling him back in, there's a girl, there's a deal with the feds to try to make this better life, things don't go according to plan, there's some kind of acceptably happy ending, then, the end. More then anything it felt like the book became A Bronx Tale. Your book can remind me of other books and other works and still succeed, but when I want to put down your book and watch or read the thing that it reminds me of, it fails. A Bronx Tale won.


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