Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. Little, Brown and Company, 2013. Currently Available.

Genre: Fantasy

12813630Face Value: I think this is a great cover. The more I look at it, the more I like it. The stark image of the hand – maybe dead, maybe reaching out, is creepy and evocative. The title font is beautiful, and I love the smoldering look – maybe tattooed, maybe burned on to the hand. Totally scary, in a gorgeous way.  Also – I love this title. It makes me immediately intrigued.  

Does it Break the Slate? Yes, yes, yes! This is a multi-layered Slatebreaking book. First, Tana is THE BEST. Seriously, she’s incredibly tough but also she’s a deeply complex, dynamic character. We get to see her vulnerabilities as well as her strength, her humor and her deep loyalty to her sister, her friends. This is a girl who would do almost anything for the people she cares about, but not someone who is a martyr – she would also do almost anything to survive.

PLUS there are all these other great female characters, and a complicated world that surrounds them.  And the lens of vampirism gives Black a great means to explore personal identity in all kinds of interesting ways.

Who would we give it to? If you love vampire books, and so many readers do, you’ll love this one. It’s one of the smartest, most original vampire narratives I’ve come across in awhile.


Review: I know, lots of people are tired of vampire stories. But I think, what people really mean when they say they are tired of vampire stories, is that they are tired of bad vampire stories. Because Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is anything but tired.

Personally though, I love vampire narratives. I think it’s fascinating, especially when you have writers who create really interesting explanation for the vampire narrative, rooted in the mythology but with a new and interesting take on it. And this one is terrifically fascinating. When Tana was a child, vampires were nothing but a myth. But a decade ago, a rogue vampire started an outbreak and people started going “cold,” leading to vampirism.  Around the United States “Coldtowns” keep the vampires in and the population safe. So when Tana wakes up after a party surrounded by dead bodies, with her infected ex-boyfriend Aiden and a strange vampire, she knows she has to get them to a Coldtown while she still can.

As I mentioned, Tana is such a terrific character. I liked her so much, from the very beginning. She’s incredibly brave, risking her life to help save Aiden and Gavriel, even though she could have gotten away from that party much more easily without them, going to great lengths to protect her younger sister and the friends she makes in Coldtown. But she’s also completely human, with fears and vulnerabilities and bad ideas.

And the supporting characters – almost any of them could have been the protagonist of their own story. From Valentina, the trans woman who came to Coldtown seeking a place where her identity could be respected to Midnight and Winter (nee Jennifer and Jack), the siblings who have taken a vow of “no more birthdays”

As for the romantic element, Aiden is exactly the right level of loser so that we understand why Tana liked him and also why he is a terrible boyfriend and an immature jerk. And Gavriel  the vampire is an incredibly sexy romantic interest. He has the whole dark and mysterious thing going on, but the romance that develops between them is rooted in real things, including both mutual respect and sexual attraction. And the ending satisfied both the romantic relationship and also the question of Tana’s future and humanity in a really wonderful way. 

Black does a fantastic job of embedding her vampire narrative in our contemporary pop culture world. Vampires and Vampire Hunters achieve celebrity status, Coldtowns are both reviled and romanticized. This element of the story adds both humor and a certain kind of horror in how weirdly plausible it all is. Holly Black has given us a terrific new fantasy story that I would recommend to absolutely anyone.

Reviewed from copy purchased at Changing Hands Bookstore

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