When Tana wakes up in a bathtub the morning after a high school party, she thinks the most she’ll have to worry about is facing her ex-boyfriend, Aidan, sober and dealing with one hell of a hangover. Little does she know the party had some visitors during the night – and now all of her classmates are dead. All except Aidan, who has been bitten and tied to a bed, with a chained up vampire. Tana pities the vampire, named Gavriel, and makes a rash decision, bundling him and Aidan in the back of her car before more vampires bust into the house and catch them. Tana is nearly caught, escaping with a scrape from a vampire tooth. Now she may be infected with the vampire virus, and if so must resist human blood for 88 days, or she’ll lose her humanity forever.
So begins the road trip of a vampire, a newly infected, and possibly infected human to their only refuge: a Coldtown. Famed for being a harbour for vampires, and broadcast across the world as a never ending party, with humans enthralled and offering up their blood in hopes of being turned. There, Tana may be able to find salvation for them all. That is, if the vampires hunting Gavriel don’t catch them first.
I’ve been a long time fan of Holly Black’s work, ever since I first read Tithe as a teenager and feel in love with urban fantasy books, especially those featuring faeries, and I have avidly read all her work. But I must admit, to my disappointment this has to be her weakest book. Having said that, it is still a Holly Black book, which puts it leagues above many others out there. So, the good. The concept of Coldtowns is a very original one, and the mystery and allure surrounding them draws in the readers as well of the characters. The descriptions of the Coldtown parties, and vampire bounty hunters are pretty captivating. It adds to the casual horror of the novel, which has got to be the strongest part of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. The gore and monstrous nature of the vampires is very well done, making this not a book to be read by the squeamish. I like my vampires with a lot of bite, which made this almost perfect in that respect.
However, there were a few problems in this novel that I just couldn’t ignore. Whilst the action was fast paced and fairly intense, with chapters ending on cliffhangers, this effect was ruined by the alternating chapters which would provide background information or alternate points of view (still all in third person though). Don’t get me wrong, these chapters were interesting in their own right, but they seriously disrupted the flow of the story. Also, the characters didn’t feel very fleshed out, which I believe is caused by this book being based off a short story. I have read this short story, which also has the same name, and I believe it is much stronger than this book. In both, the characters aren’t developed much, but this is forgivable in a short story which has less space for said development. The novel, on the other hand, felt like an idea that was stretched too thin, causing the characters to suffer as we never really get to know them that well. This leads to a lot of telling rather than showing when it comes to their personalities. Aidan probably suffers the most from this: Tana thinks many times about how he’s an alright guy really, and how gentle he really is, etc,etc, but all of their relationship we see are through her flashbacks, overshadowed by how she realises now that it was never going to work, and him lying and manipulating her to make sure she comes back to save him. This also meant the romance between Tana and Gavriel was pretty lacklustre, with little attraction or reason behind it, causing it to be almost boring.
I had high hopes for this one, and I can’t say, when comparing to Holly Black’s other work, that I am impressed. Yet, it is still a good vampire book, and I recommend it to anyone looking for vampires and gore. Better yet, I recommend the original short story. I just can’t help but be disappointed, as I know Holly Black is capable of better.