Saturday, September 28, 2013
Book Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
When seventeen-year-old Tana wakes up one morning after a perfectly ordinary party, everyone around her is dead. The only other survivors are her exasperatingly charming ex-boyfriend, infected and thirsting for blood, and a chained-up, mysterious, red-eyed vampire. Shaken but determined, Tana knows what she has to do to ensure their survival and that of her loved ones: by going straight into the wickedly opulent heart of Coldtown, where quarantined monsters and humans mingle in bloodlust and terror. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, there's no leaving. But Tana is bent on having a way out, no matter what the cost.
Okay, I'll come right out and say that I only figured out that the book was about vampires a couple of chapters into it. In my defense, the blurb didn't say anything about vampires! When I did get around to this revelation, I kind of rolled my eyes a little. I mean, another vampire book? Aren't vampires kind of a dying YA sub-genre by now? Luckily for me, Ms. Black most certainly proved me wrong. The vampires in Coldtown are cunning and bloodthirsty, but what sets them apart from a lot of the vampires I've encountered in other books is that there are shades of humanity coloured into their predatory nature. That is to say, they're undoubtedly twisted and ruthless, but they exist in their own working society. They're sophisticated. The macabre grandeur of Lucien's balls clearly exemplify this, and what's all the more interesting is that vampires are regarded as sophisticated and awesome enough that a whole bunch of humans actually want to become one. In the world Ms. Black has created, vampires are such a norm that there's nothing too shocking about seeing one down the street. It most certainly is a richly dark and enchanting world, and that's one of the things I love about the book! If anything, read this for its amazing world-building. It's tantalizing.
Having said this, I was a little on the fence about the characters, particularly Tana. Now don't get me wrong, there's nothing really dislikable about her. She's tough and has a good head on her shoulders, and she doesn't whine about all the misfortune that's fallen onto her. But there were times when I felt like she was a little too strong, like having to leave her sister and dad and venturing into a vampire-infested town aren't such big deals. She just kind of numbs herself, picks herself up and keeps on going. It's like she ends up becoming a little bit twisted as a result of all the poop thrown at her in life--and maybe that's what makes her a more interesting heroine to read about. I just didn't feel like I could empathize with her, not completely at least. That could be because I'm not kick-ass enough, too. I'd be terrified if I found myself in Coldtown, not to mention with an ex-boyfriend who wants to suck my blood (in a deathly way, not a sexy one), or psychopathic vampires who chain people up as living bloodbags. So I've come to the conclusion that Tana is desensitized. And it's up to you, readers, to choose whether you like that or not!
The other characters in the novel are juicily complex as well, adding to the manic darkness of the entire story. There's Aidan, Tana's charming douchebag of an ex-boyfriend, who I disliked all the way until the very end, where he does something that sort of redeems himself. He's alright, I suppose. Sniff. And then there's Gavriel, the vampire Tana finds at the party. I really liked reading about his history through the alternating chapters of current plot-other plot (I apologize if that doesn't make much sense, but you'll see if you read the book!). Gavriel is definitely one of my favourite characters in the entire novel--he's dark and twisted and completely mad, but there's a sort of messed up sweetness in him that endears him to you. I'm pretty sure a lot of female readers, maybe even some male ones, end up swooning over him and want him to bite them and everything. Yeah, he's like Cullen 2.0! There are so many other characters, like Lucien, Valentina, Jameson, Midnight and Pearl, all of whom add to the story in different ways. Just trust me, the cast of characters is strangely delicious!
Overall, "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown" is a darkly tantalizing novel with great world-building, a complex heroine, and a wonderfully twisted cast of characters. Ms. Black certainly didn't let me down with this one, and it's worth checking out!