Book Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black coldest girl in coldtown

Published: September 3rd 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Source: ARC from publisher

Synopsis (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.

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.

My thoughts: Guys, I love vampires. But I am still mostly skeptical of vampire books. It takes a new concept and a skilled writer to really make them work for me.

Luckily, I’ve enjoyed Holly Black’s writing, and I loved her take on vampire mythology. Even if this novel was far from perfect, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The opening scene was riveting. Tana wakes up in a bath tub the night after a party and find everyone else dead in a fantastic display of carnage, except for her ex-boyfriend, who is tied to a bed. He’s been bitten, and thus craves her human blood—it’s the drinking that will complete the transformation. Oh, and there’s a vampire chained up to the bed, too.

Thus begins Tana’s wild ride to the nearest Coldtown, where vampires are kept behind walls and allowed to party to their dead heart’s content with the throngs of people who are either trapped inside or flocked to the vampire cities for a chance of deathly glamour. The endless parties are broadcast across the country like bad reality TV shows, shocking and horrifying and sexy and seductive all at once.

Gavriel, the vampire along for the ride is  a crazy, sexy guy with an enigmatic smile and a secret, so the book has that going for it right there. I can fully support madness and pouty lips.

But the novel is all start-and-go, like a car sputtering along the road. Interlaced with all of the action scenes of the road trip to Coldtown are mostly annoying flashback scenes. The back-and-forth nature of the timeline made all the world-building feel like info-dumping. This felt like a short story stretched out to be a full-length novel by adding lots of backstory. I would have enjoyed it much more if the information presented in the flashbacks had been incorporated into the present timeline. I’m not always opposed to flashback scenes, but these didn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason for their style or timing.

And it isn’t like there wasn’t enough story to have a full length novel. There were so many subplots that could have been further developed. There’s the brother and sister wannabe-vampire duo they meet along the way; Gavriel’s backstory (which was actually interesting); Tana’s sister running off to Coldtown; the varied cast of characters Tana meets once inside Coldtown—this was the most interesting part of the story, yet seemed rushed; and of course, Gavriel’s revenge plot. All of this could have been expanded and the “backstory” about Tana’s mother could have been revealed in the present storyline.

(I know that is all kind of vague, I’m trying not to spoil since this is an early review).

Even though I didn’t feel this was a perfect novel, my complaints didn’t impact my enjoyment of the story too significantly. In fact, it had so many elements I did like, I still highly recommend it.

These vampires are bloody. This is a gory book with lots of death. No sparkling vampires here. And I loved that. There’s just enough humor to balance it out, and Tana was a spunky heroine who was realistic and flawed and pig-headed and stubborn enough to think she was invincible but kind and good-hearted enough to want to save her friends (and even her jerk of an ex-boyfriend).

And um…Gavriel. Crazy. Dangerous. Killer. But honest. Amusing. Sexy. Yeah. I liked him, and found his chemistry with Tana very believable.

If you like Holly Black’s writing, enjoy deadly vampires and don’t mine the back and forth of flashbacks, check this out. If not, give it a pass. It’s certainly not for everyone, but I liked it. It’s a great novel for teens who like their YA paranormal with a heavy dose of horror, and has lots of crossover appeal for adult fans of urban fantasy.

7 thoughts on “Book Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

  1. Interesting review! I’m not into vampires, but I don’t avoid those books as a rule. I might check this one out (though the gore might be too much for me).

    1. Yeah, it’s kind of weird. The damphirs are half-vampires born of a moroi, the ‘good’ vampires, and either a human or another damphir. The damphirs can’t reproduce together. The damphirs are kind of hybrids and don’t drink blood and are safe in the sun, but are super strong and act as “guardians” to the moroi. This is not a book I’d recommend to you :) But it was one I felt like I should read.

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