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Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

September 3, 2013

Title: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Format: ARC

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.—via Goodreads

When it comes to vampires, there are two camps:  people who like docile, emo vampires and people who like aggressive, awesome vampires.

But Holly Black* is, of course, the person who blurs the lines and makes them all one-in-the-same.

In The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Tana lives in present-day, but the world knows that vampires exist and that they live in Coldtowns, which are quarantined areas where vampires and, some humans, can live as they please. While this sounds weirdly utopian, it really isn’t. The Coldtowns are refuges, but area also prisons, and the world Black has imagined feels a little more Gothic than the way I perceive it to be, at least.

But Tana isn’t a girl who is obsessed with death or being a vampire, much like some others are. She’s experienced the pain and terror of vampirism first-hand, and though she accepts it for what it is, she wants nothing to do with it. But after a party, it turns out that she has little choice and becomes inexorably wrapped up in helping some vampires make their way to the nearest Coldtown.

Though this isn’t my favorite Holly Black book, I really loved what she did with this one. The story is told from several different points of view, which keeps the story, narrative, and perspective fresh. Though you spend a lot of time with Tana, you also get in the brains of some of the vampires, whose stories are nuanced and sumptuous. I feel like when in the perspective of vampires is where Black’s writing really excels—she does a wonderful job of capturing the sadness inherit in being a vampire well, but also highlights the sophistication and class of belle époque Paris through fashion and attitude. She evokes that fine line of  lavish debauchery and debilitating despair in a way that I haven’t come across before in writing about vampires. And I’ve read a lot of it.

But more than a story of escaping to a Coldtown, Tana’s story is one of bravery and being true to herself. There are some romantical bits that crop up here, but they aren’t the focus, and to be honest, I was zero percent interested in that storyline, which is perhaps a first for me.

But, really, what you need to know is that I literally couldn’t put the book down.  At page 268 I thought, “I’m going to bed now.” And then I’d be like, “Nah. I’ll just finish this.” And I did.

Overall, this is a beautifully written story that takes on vampires with a sophistication, style, and maturity that I feel has been missing in many vampire novels of late. It’s definitely worth a read and I’d be willing to wager that you’ll finish it in one go.

*Okay, she isn’t the first person to ever do this, but it hasn’t been done in awhile. There. Stop yelling at me.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

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