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Holly Black, Justine Larbalestier (editors)

Allen & Unwin (2010)

ISBN: 978-1-74237-550-2

Reviewed by Mitenae

Zombies Vs Unicorns is not your typical short story anthology. It divides the authors into two teams (and thus the stories) and sets out to convince you that their team is better. But with a brilliant selection of fantastic writers trying to sway you it might be hard to make a decision.

Team Zombie, edited by Justine Larbalestier, has Carrie Ryan, Maureen Johnson, Scott Westerfield, Cassandra Clare and Libba Bray but my favourite here is Alaya Dawn Johnson’s “Love will Tear us Apart”.Each of these stories seeks to recast and expand the zombie, playing with our expectations of what a zombie is. Many of these could match or better many of the zombie movies.

Team Unicorn, under the command of Holly Black has managed a formidable attack with Garth Nix, Naomi Novik, Margo Lanagan, Kathleen Duey and Diana Peterfreund, but my favourite comes from Meg Cabot with her hilarious story “Princess Prettypants”. On the whole, each of these unicorn stories seeks to recast the unicorn as less innocent and more threatening. More could have been done with the unicorn here as I feel the idea wasn’t pushed as much as it could have been, although they do play with what the unicorn traditionally is.

Neither side really convinced me, but that’s because I’m a long-time vampire fan.

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Holly Black

The Curseworkers Book 1

Gollancz (2010)

ISBN: 978-0-575-09671-4

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

It’s not often you find out on page eight of a book that the narrator has murdered someone, and that you’re still meant to find him a totally engaging and sympathetic character – after first being introduced to him on top of a roof, sleepwalking. But that is exactly the case with the teenaged Cassel Sharpe.

Cassel lives in a world where magic is real, but it has been prohibited since 1929 – making any magic workers, like Cassel’s family, criminals. The thing is, Cassel isn’t himself a magic worker, so not only does he have to deal with his family engaging in criminal activity, he also has to deal with being an outsider. As most of us probably remember, being an outsider as a teenager is horrendous – bad enough at school, often even worse when it’s within your own family.

Black achieves that wonderful blend that makes YA, in particular, glow: a fast-paced narrative that doesn’t make you confused but keeps a steady, intriguing pace, matched with complex characters and relationships. The plot flutters easily from amusing high-school standard pranks to much more sinister, threatening events; after all, imagine if the Mafia were largely the group in control of magic. The relationships, too, vary from complicated peer-friendships to even more tangled family ones. One of my favourite characters was Grandad; one moment typical doddery old man, the next domineering curse-working patriarch.

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Edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

Simon & Schuster (2010)

ISBN: 978-1416989530

Syndicated from

This is undoubtedly the YA anthology of the year. The line up of authors is extraordinary, and the stories are consistently good. It helps that it’s a very meme-able anthology concept as well, with authors, editors and readers alike picking a side in the “war” between Team Unicorn and Team Zombie. I was rather pleased coming into this that I didn’t have a side – swinging voters always have more power! But in fact, Team Unicorn and Team Zombie is less about which fantasy creature you love and adore, and more about which one you think is totally uncool.

In essence, Zombies V. Unicorns is an anthology about prejudice. Unicorns and zombies are both fantasy tropes which tend to provoke strong reactions in people – of a yuchhhh variety. Apart from a few notable exceptions, I’ve generally been in Camp Zombies and Unicorns Both Suck, which makes this anthology extra useful as it’s a book for people who thought they hated one, the other or both, which is full of great, vibrant stories designed to make you change your mind.

Having said all that, counting the seven stories I really liked out of the anthology, I have four unicorns to three zombies, and three out of my top four are farting rainbows. Unicorns for the win!

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Holly Black

The Curseworkers Book 1

Gollancz (2010)

ISBN: 978-0-575-09671-4

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Cassel is trying to live an ordinary life. He attends boarding school, gets good grades, and flies under the radar, even if he’s not, strictly speaking, following all the rules. But then he wakes up on the roof of his dorm and finds himself shunted back to his family. His very un-ordinary family. Cassel’s family are curse-workers, users of magic who are forced underground, into the crime world, by law. In a world very like ours, where one in 1000 people have a gift, or curse, to be able to work a form of magic, Cassel’s family blossoms with talent.

But not Cassel. Which makes him different, and glad to be so, despite the devastating secret he holds tight. When Cassel realises that strange things happening in his life, he starts to fear for his sanity, his safety, and his life.

This book hooked me from page one, reeled me in for the duration of the story and threw me back at the end. While Holly Black writes a compelling story with a vivid and fascinating cast of characters, it was actually the worldbuilding which really drew me in. Such a clever idea, and executed with the style only Black can manage. This is a fantastic young adult novel that will suck readers of all ages in and it will satisfy all. I’m so delighted it’s the first of a new series, because even though it’s a self-contained work, with a distinct ending I want more!

Holly Black

Curse Workers, Book 1

Gollancz (2010)


Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts, Syndicated July 2010

Cassel is the only member of his family who isn’t a curse worker. That means he’s the only one who isn’t a criminal. Except for the fact that he killed his best friend Lila three years ago, and still doesn’t remember why…

Now he’s sleepwalking, his school is trying to kick him out, his family is paying way more interest in him than they ever have, and he’s not altogether sure he can con his way out of this one.

And then there’s the cat.

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