The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
by Holly Black
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013
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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. The only problem is, 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 a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.
I am a huge fan of Holly Black, even though she’s written several books at this point that I haven’t yet managed to read. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was an e-galley that I’d had sitting on my Kindle for a stupidly long time, but I actually went the audiobook route in order to actually read it. And I’m actually really glad I did, because the narration lent a spooky, eerie feel to the story – complete with some background music at key points in the story – and it kept me more engrossed than the book would have, since in the end the book is a dystopian-ish take on a world where vampires roam around and “infect” humans. Nonetheless, I found myself intrigued and in the end quite enjoyed it, even if the ambiguous ending was a tad unsatisfactory.
I will say that this isn’t your usual run of the mill vampire book. The vampires here are quite ruthless and violent, and we’re given a front row seat to their shenanigans. Tana’s situation is pretty dire from the instant the book starts – she wakes up to find that she’s one of only two of her friends who survived a vampire attack, and one of them’s been infected. She herself comes into contact with a vampire as well, so we have a whole “is she, isn’t she” plot that ramps up as the book progresses and the timeframe on her symptoms manifesting comes closer. We also get to meet Gavriel, who’s an ages-old vampire himself, whose true identity comes out as the book progresses. It’s via him that we see the violence mentioned, although Tana herself takes part in much of it later on in the book. If you’re not a fan of the mention of blood, this isn’t the book for you, let’s just put it that way!
There is a romance subplot in this book, but I actually found myself rooting for it instead of annoyed by it. Tana is a determined young lady, who’s trying to make the best choices for all involved, and she definitely makes some mistakes along the way. There’s a lot of conversation about if vampires are actually evil or if they retain their humanity in some ways after they’re changed, and it was interesting to see Tana try to figure out where she stood on the argument. I also liked how she refused to give up on Aiden as well, even though it would have been safer if she had. She’s a good narrator for this story – she has a tragic backstory that she references often (and it likewise influences her choices) – and while I didn’t necessarily agree with some of her decisions I know why she made them; that definitely helped warm me up to her, especially as she became more and more entangled in Gavriel and Lucien’s history.
I will say that this book has chapters that aren’t from Tana’s point of view, and as such the story is told kind of non-linearly, which annoyed me at times because she always seemed to insert one of these chapters right as things got interesting. Still, it helped introduce all the players and give some of their histories, and in the end I understand why she did it, even if it did mess with my reading a bit.
All in all, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was a good read. It’s atmospheric, exciting, and set in an interesting world. If you’re like me and haven’t yet read it – and you’re okay with dystopian stories featuring vampires – do give it a read!
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Thanks for the review!
I’ve heard only good things about this book. I thought vampire books might have been overdone by now but it’s great to see a different take on the genre.