Saturday, November 02, 2013

Book Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Book: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Author: Holly Black
Published: 2013
Source: ARC acquired from publisher at ALA 2013

It's like the start of an urban legend. Tana Bach wakes up in a bathtub after a party so wild she doesn't remember most of it. But it's not her blood spattering the house. It's everyone else's. In the rush of the party, somebody forgot basic precautions and left a window open, letting the vampires in.

Among the mutilated bodies, she finds her ex-boyfriend, Aiden, tied to a bed. He’s going Cold, but not in the dead sense. It’s what they call someone who has been infected, but isn’t yet a vampire. You can survive going Cold, they say, but it will be up to eighty-eight days of craving blood past the point of madness. The safest place for him right now is Coldtown, the quarantined portion of the city where vampires reign supreme. But first they have to get there.

She also finds Gavriel, a fully-fledged vampire who agrees to help them in exchange for getting him safely to Coldtown ahead of the vampires pursuing him. Now Tana’s on the road with a stone-cold killer, an obnoxious ex that she has to keep human, and oh, she might be infected herself.

For me the best part of this book (besides the gritty toughness of Tana herself) was the world-building. How would the world react to vampires coming out the shadows and chomping down? Well, this one reacts with websites and Twitter feeds, and, naturally, reality shows. There are also border guards at Coldtown and PSAs on the TV. Coldtown itself is a far cry from the reality shows. And of course, there’s the nasty and twisted world of vampire politics, which is as classically Byzantine as every other vampire novel ever has promised.

In some ways this book is guilty of the things it's trying to undermine about vampires. There is a sensual glamor about her vampires, blood soaked as they are. But it’s that balance that makes this book (and vampires themselves, I guess) so intoxicating. They are stone cold killers with a sheen of glamor overlying the fangs, and to your own horror, you find yourself sympathizing with their ageless pain, at least until they start ripping throats out.

Lush, horrifying, gritty, and powerful, this is Holly Black at her very Holly-Black-est.

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