BOOK: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
AUTHOR: Holly Black
PUBLISHER: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
MY RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★ (3.5/5)
Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. And once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.
One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is not what you’d expect from a YA vampire story in this generation, and that is what sets this book apart. It isn’t full of the typical vampire tropes we’ve seen over and over. There’s no cheesy love story (though there is a back burner romance), there’s no sparkly vampires, and our main character knows better (most of the time).
This book is my introduction to Holly Black, and I can’t say I’m disappointed. The writing style of this book makes me look forward to reading more of her work. That being said, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown definitely lulled at points. Particularly at the beginning.
The story starts with Tana waking up at a party, and all the attendees have been murdered by vampires. She stumbles through the wreckage, checking for more survivors before she gets the hell out of there. She stumbles into a room with her ex-boyfriend Aidan chained to a bedpost, as well as a restrained vampire ducking in the shadows of the room. The vampire, who introduces himself as Gavriel, warns her that Aidan has been bit, and that there are several more vampires hiding in the basement of the house waiting for sundown. Tana decides to save Aidan and Gavriel from the house, making a narrow escape from the vampires in the basement, and Tana has her leg grazed by one of their teeth.
Aidan is eager to become a vampire, and Tana is hoping to wait out her possible infection so she can get back to her father and younger sister. Struggling with what to do next, the group ultimately decides to drive to the closest Coldtown. Coldtown’s are cities that have been quarantined for the sole purpose of housing vampires. Citizens are encouraged to turn themselves in if they have been bit, or if they have a vampire to turn over. There is a bit of a cult craze built up around vampirism in society. Some glamorize it – there are live feeds from Coldtowns of extravagant balls and parties where everyone is dressed to impress. There are also others who are against it, and TV shows are broadcast that teach you how to kill vampires.
Once the group reaches the Coldtown, they quickly learn that it’s not at all what it’s been hyped up to be, and they need to be very careful. Gavriel splits off to take care of some personal business that Tana eventually gets dragged into, and drama ensues.
“‘Thank you for staying away, Tana. It’s the responsible thing to do, and I hope that no matter what happens, you leave us – especially Pearl – with our memory of you the way it was. We love you, sweetheart, and we’ll miss you, but please don’t come back here. Don’t ever come home.’”
I enjoyed the characters for the most part. Tana was quite stubborn at times and I worried at her decisions sometimes, especially when she was knowingly putting herself in danger of vampires. Ultimately she was pretty smart though and I couldn’t help thinking her a bit of a badass at times. Aidan I was super wary of from the start. While he’s not a bad guy, I didn’t really appreciate his character, but he was still well written. Gavriel I was a little obsessed with. I loved his touch of insanity at times, and really appreciated the romance that developed between him and Tana. It’s sweet and subtle. It doesn’t take up the point of the story.
“’Sleep Tana. I will guard you from Death, for I have no fear of him. We have been adversaries for so long that we are closer than friends.’”
Another unique part of this novel is the little quotes at the beginning of each chapter. They were a bit creepy at first. The earlier chapters seemed to have quotes that romanticized death, while later in the novel I felt like the quotes had changed to ones that represented more of a fear of death. It really helped to enhance the overall mood of the story and I like to think that they reflected a bit of Tana’s feelings from the beginning to the end of the novel.
As I mentioned earlier, this book does lull a lot, particularly in the beginning, and that is primarily what brought down my rating of this book. It didn’t hold my attention all the way through. There was a lot of useless descriptions as well, which really could have been removed to shorten the book. I mean, it’s over 400 pages, and it really could have been brought down close to 50 of those. I also hated the way that every time the story started to pick up again, the chapter would end abruptly, and the following chapter would be about the world history of vampires, or some other such event. It completely brought down my excitement every time things started to heat up.
My only other complaint would be the ending. It wasn’t bad but it was just left so open ended and I felt like not a lot was really resolved. We don’t know Tana’s condition. Maybe it’s not important, maybe I’m supposed to see something more in the ending. Maybe it was meant to leave me reeling with questions. But I’m stubborn, and I wish I had answers.
If you’re looking for something new in the paranormal genre, I’d recommend checking out this new take on a vampire story.