Tag Archives: urban fantasy

Black Heart by Holly Black

In the third and final installment in her Curse Workers trilogy–Black Heart–Holly Black spins another tale of intrigue, lies, and curses that her bad-boy-gone-good protagonist, Cassel Sharpe must unravel. As he so recently learned in Red Glove, things around him aren’t always as they seem and the world of good and evil isn’t always so cut and dry. When you come from a family of hardened criminals, liars, and con artists–and the girl you love is next in line to rule the biggest crime cartel in the city–it’s difficult to make the right decisions. Especially when those decisions lead you to work as an undercover government agent, a betrayal so great that any one of your own family members would be willing to kill you for it. But when Cassel gets an assignment from the government that’s a bit too much like the assassinations his brothers made him participate in as a child (using his powers to transform living people into inanimate objects, thus killing them) it makes him question whether he’s finally gotten in over his head.

How can you stay true to yourself when your hand is forced?

loved this series, but I especially loved Black Heart. Black had so many twisted strands of problems and cons threaded together, that only an author of her caliber would’ve been able to pull it off in such a short book. She is one of my favorite authors because of these threads she weaves, as well as the fact that all of her characters (even the “good guys”) are more than a little bit dark. It’s the flaws in people that make them interesting, after all.

Cassel’s world makes me imagine what life would be like if the cops weren’t on your side. Most people are raised to believe that if they’re ever in trouble, help is only a three digit phone call away. But what if that wasn’t true? How would you deal with danger if there were no one to turn to, magic (and guns!) were involved, and even your closest surviving relatives couldn’t be trusted? Phew. I get upset enough about rush hour traffic in the morning…I don’t know how I would deal with that!

Black also did a great job comparing the prejudice against curse workers to the prejudice against blacks in the 50’s and gays in today’s world. Picket marches, soap-box politicians, new dangerous laws, mandatory testing, and discrimination on the job. Pretty heavy stuff. She used great imagery when conjuring these scenes and Cassel’s world really echoes the shortcomings of our own.

The only thing that bothering me within the story was at the end how Cassel handled Daneca’s new relationship (I won’t spoil it!) and his tempestuous relationship with Lila. We can tell you guys want each other, just do it for crissakes! I’m an impatient person and it was hard for me to wait to see what would happen between them next. Especially when Cassel learns that Lila’s father is holding his mother captive in his high rise apartment, either until he gets tired of her or until Cassel finds the Resurrection Diamond. (And you thought your in-laws were tough!)

4 leather gloves of 5

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children under the duress of my thirteen year old sister. She’s the one that got me hooked on the Hunger Games Trilogy (so she has obviously inherited my good taste in books!) The cover was what initially drew me to it–a creepy black and white photo of an antique little girl hovering in mid-air.  That’s got to be interesting, right?

Right!

The story revolves around our teenage protagonist, Jacob. After witnessing the horrific death of his beloved Grandpa Portman, he sets off on an adventure unlike any other. His quest starts after he helps his father clean out his grandpa’s house–only to discover a box of  antique photographs of unusual children. These are the very same photos Grandpa Portman used to share with him as a child, regaling him with stories of these strange children and their magical abilities. He claimed to have grown up with them on an island-bound orphanage run by a bird who smoked a pipe. Of course, as Jacob grew older these tales became harder to believe, and all the pictures began to look photo-shopped. During the horrific encounter that lead to Grandpa Portman’s death, Jacob thought he glimpsed a monster hiding in the woods. This led him to consider the fact that maybe his grandpa’s tales weren’t so tall after all. After undergoing psychiatric counseling, it is determined that Jacob must go visit this alleged island and see for himself that these stories were fake. Thus begins his discovery of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children…

This story was a great teen novel, one of the best I’ve read recently. I have  loved urban fantasy (a fantasy that’s set in the modern, everyday world) since getting into Holly Black’s writing several years ago. It contains all of the qualities an UF story needs to make it great: another, more magical world, a cast of wacky characters, extraordinary powers, time travel, insurmountable monsters, and just a touch of confusing, teen-angsty romance. *sigh* Loved it.

Ransom Riggs came up with a really unique twist on time travel, as well. Rather than jumping in the Dolorian to go back to a time period (or some other over-played method) he created time “loops.” These loops are repeating circles of time that are created to keep the Peculiars safe. These loops repeat the same day over and over again, in this case, September 3rd, 1940–the day the Germans bombed Wales. Each night the bombs fall, but the loop resets before they hit, and in this way these peculiar children have stayed children for over 80 years. They have also remained safe in this hidden time loop from the Wights–creatures whom are looking to use them to gain immortality.

I really enjoyed the awkward feelings between Jacob and Emma, and the overall image of all these unique people living together in one big Victorian manor. Very cool. I also liked that these children’s talents were very unique, rather than X-men cliche. The way that Riggs used actual antique photographs to build his characters/plot around was a very interesting and enjoyable change from normal teen fiction. Pioneering in story-telling, I love it! There was a bit of lag in the story in the first 1/4 of the book, but not enough to dissuade me from wanting to find out what happened next. There’s a definite set up for a sequel, which I am very much looking forward to.

Good job, Mr. Riggs.

(See? Floridians are special!)

5 of 5 stars