September 11, 2013

REVIEW: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black
Published September 3, 2013
Publisher:  Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: ARC, received at BEA
Genre:  young adult paranormal
To Buy: Amazon  * Barnes & Noble

Rating:  4 STARS

(From Goodreads) 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. 

One thing I've noticed about vampires in many of today's books is that they've been romanticized to the point where they're not really all that scary any more. Think about the vampires you know the best - Edward from the Twilight series, the Brothers from the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Simon from The Mortal Instruments. These are the sexy, sweet vampires who don't kill humans and love their women fiercely.

Holly Black has reminded us in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown that vampires are inherently evil and bad and so scary. When I learned that this book was about vampires, I was prepared for the usual. What I got instead was something dark, bloody and freaky. It was awesome!

Tana wakes up the morning after a party and 48 of her friends are dead. She discovers her ex-boyfriend and a vampire chained in a room and saves them. The three of them set off for Coldtown, with Tana having every intention of returning home when her cargo is delivered. Things don't happen according to plan, though, and before she knows it, Tana finds herself fighting for her life as she knows it.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is unique in many ways. In it, our world knows about vampires and fears them. Vampirism is treated as a disease, and something that can be fought - like a cold. It's a different way of looking at it, for sure.

Let's talk characters. Tana was an awesome heroine. She had something truly awful happen to her as a child, and although that event certainly helped shape her, it hasn't defined her like we see so many times in characters that are in situations like this. She's brave and strong and smart. She's cautious when she needs to be, and she doesn't blindly trust anyone.

Gavriel was... wow. He was something else. A centuries-old vampire who is more than a little nuts-o, yet young-looking and hot (of course!) and so dynamic. He says the craziest things, and pairs them with moments of lucidity that make you think that perhaps there's a method to his madness. And, there's definitely more to him than what meets the eye - that was evident from the very first moment we see him.
"Go to sleep, Tana. If you let me borrow your car for tonight, I promise I will pay you back." 
"Oh yeah?" she asked. "With what?"
"Jewels, lies, slips of paper, dried flowers, memories of things long past, useless quotations, idle hands, beads, buttons and mischief."
The way that Black layered the chapters with one flashback followed by one present-day helped to slowly develop the characters and the world so that it wasn't so much info dump all at once. I did appreciate that a lot.

The other thing I appreciated is that, although there is a very nice slow burn romance, it wasn't thrust in with a crowbar. Many times, a romance is added just for people like me who need something like that in my stories. Not because the story calls for it. In this case, the romance is a little darker, but no less sweet. Gavriel is an a-typical hero and leading man, and I was okay with that. I still fell in love with him, just like Tana did.
"I love you, you see - and I fear I have no way to say or show it that isn't terrible, except coming here. I would kill everyone in the world for you, if you wanted... But I thought you might rather have me read aloud and sit with you. Like a normal person who loved you might, if you had a normal illness. And since you don't, I'm just right for what you do have."
At 419 pages, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a smidge long. It could've been tightened up some. Some of the flashback chapters felt unnecessary. In fact, I think the addition of Tana's sister Pearl was completely nonessential to the main story, and I don't think I would've felt like I was missing anything important if she had been omitted entirely.

Despite that, I really loved the dark and foreboding aspect of this story. The romance that I need was there, although it wasn't prominent. The heroes are exciting. The villains are confusing in a very good way (Are they all bad? Good? How bad are they?). If you like vampire stories even a little, you really should give this one a shot. I can't wait to see where Black takes this story next.

1 comment:

Kim said...

I love dark and foreboding. I will definitely have to pick up this book in the near future. Great review!