Remember that you can check out my other reviews here anytime. Also, if you have any suggestions for books you think I should read, books you think I’d like, or books you’d like to see reviewed, make sure to let me know in the comments! I know it’s been a while since I did one of these, due to a combination of super boring factors that you don’t want or need to hear. In any case, I’m here to review Holly Black’s new vampire novel, “The Coldest Girl in Cold Town.”
“But wait!” you cry overdramatically at your computer screen. “A vampire novel? Aren’t we done with those yet?” Hold that thought.
One reason I picked up this book is that I’m a major Holly Black fan. Tithe was what got me interested in the mythology of faerie courts, which in turn got me interested in other authors, like Melissa Marr, and even spurred me to draft my own (*cough* awful) faerie court novel.
But the other reason I picked it up is because I sat in for a panel at LeakyCon last year on publishing, and literary agent Kate Schafer Testerman brought it up as an example of how, if you’re a good and trusted enough writer, you can write outside of trends. Yes, the vampire novel is dead (pun intended), and we’re in the post-Twilight era now. But Holly Black? She can do what she wants.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is about a teenaged girl, Tana, who ends up by a series of events in Coldtown, which is a whole gated city where vampires and those who want to be around vampires are contained.
It’s actually a lot more complicated than that, but that’s the premise.
At first I was disappointed in the “wow, he’s such a sexy vampire” romance, because it’s been done so many times. But that’s where the similarities end between this book and any other vampire book I’ve read.
The world Holly Black has created is a completely new look at a post-vampire modern America, and a fascinating one to explore. There’s a really cool dichotomy of the celebritization and the fear of vampires. The separation of Coldtown from the rest of the world is terrifying and effective, so much that when Tana sends a text or places a call to someone outside Coldtown, it’s jolting to realize everyone else is so accessible... yet simultaneously so inaccessible.
The idea of “going cold” as part of the turning process is the first truly original take I’ve seen on the vampire creation mythos since... well, since ever. We’re so used to the story of how vampires are created and killed that it’s seriously impressive that Holly Black has managed to stay true enough to it to not feel like her vampires are no longer vampires, but make it fresh enough to be unique.
Gavriel, the main vampire character, is, I admit, an excellent swoon-worthy dark and mysterious vampire. But he’s more than that. Repeatedly throughout the novel his character surprised me, and in all the best ways. He has more depth and humanity than any other vampire I’ve read.
Most of the other characters were excellent as well. Aidan is a fascinating portrait of a person so unknowingly awful and flawed that he becomes charming. Winter and Midnight are, in my opinion, the most interesting characters in the book, and do an excellent job of exploring another side of this post-vampire world. There’s a trans character, Valentina, who is handled extremely well — honestly, without pretense or gimmick, and in a way that ultimately gently pushes the reader towards acceptance. She is the first trans character I’ve ever seen in a YA novel, and I’m thrilled that although her gender identity was a part of her character, it didn’t define her character.
Some of the major characters I felt were underdeveloped, such as Tana’s sister, Pearl, her best friend, Pauline, and her father. Pearl is sort of thrown into the story at the end without much precedent, and I think the book would’ve been fine without her. Similarly, Pauline only crops up where she’s necessary for the plot, or for Tana reflecting on her recent past. Tana’s father is loosely sketched as a haunted soul, but we get so little information on him that he never truly develops as a believable character. I think all three characters could have been entirely cut — after all, the book already has a huge cast of characters.
I also want to note that there’s quite a bit of gore and violence in this book. This is typical of Holly Black’s books -- not the gore, necessarily, but the intense description that tends to stick with you even after you’re finished reading. I personally thought the gore in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown contributed to the story and enhanced the realism and the tension, but those with weak stomachs might find some parts cringe-worthy.
My final verdict: I recommend it.
...especially for anyone looking for a new twist on the supernatural YA romance genre. I also recommend Holly Black’s “Tithe,” and the companion books, and basically everything she’s written.