The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Just finished reading the Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black.  I’m conflicted with this book.  Basicially I have quite a few criticisms and yet in spite of that, and in spite of myself, I liked it!  So, my thoughts on it are a mess.

On the one hand, I think it’s well written, it’s gory and bloodthirsty.  The vampires are truly blood sucking killers and I liked the concept.  On the other hand, I think there are inconsistencies, I think there is a lack of real believability with the Coldtown side of things (as much as you can have a lack of believability when you’re reading about vampires!) and I think that the story is a little bit long and could probably have been shortened slightly, or maybe shortened in some areas and lengthened in others.

The story opens on something of a massacre.  A party at a remote farmhouse has become a scene straight out of a horror story.  Tana, also at the party has worken up in the bath where she basically slept in order to get away from the action, and particularly to get away from her ex boyfriend Aidan.  When she wakes up almost everyone is dead and the place has been liberally decorated in blood.  The only other survivor is Aidan, who has been bitten and so now carries the infection and has been chained to a bed and a vampire (Gavriel) – also chained up who he seems to be sharing the bedroom with, and worse, there are sounds of movement below, the killers are stirring.  Tana needs to escape pdq and has decided to rescue not only her ex but the vampire who is being held captive.  I know.  What a maniac.  Although the vampire in question does seem to be trying to help her!  The three then set out to one of the Coldtowns – I will explain!

Basically In Black’s imagined world vampires are real and are no longer a secret that hunts us from the shadows, stealthy and secretive.  The infection that causes vampirism has spread and as a result Coldtowns have been created where vampires now live, along with humans.  It’s a form of captivity and the basis of it is that the vampires don’t kill (all) the humans they live with – as they’ll no longer have anyone to feed from.  Simple supply and demand.  Of course, these Coldtowns have gathered something of a cult status with people clamouring to get in thinking that they will themselves become immortal.  People with a suspected infection (because there are still rogue vampires out there – stalked by real life famous bounty hunters) are put into Coldtown to see if they can resist the temptation of blood and sweat out the infection.  A process that takes approximately 3 months.  Of course during that time, without some pretty strong form of restraint it’s more than likely that the bloodlust will win out.

On top of this, the action from within Coldtowns is televised and broadcast around the country with some vampires gathering a massive following – one of the most popular being the Vampire Lucien – who sort of put me in mind of the vampires in the Trueblood series.

Now, back to the three making their way to the nearest Coldtown.  Along the way they pick up a couple of young people, twins, who are in search of immortality and aim to enter Vampire Ville in search of it.  Between them they come up with a plan that involves claiming that they’ve caught the vampire Gavriel and are turning him into Coldtown for the reward (a marker – which gives the carrier right to freedom from the place – the only real way out of Coldtown short of a body bag).  Tana plans to quarantine herself there, stay out of trouble, fight off the disease and return home using her market to gain freedom.  Of course, the likelihood of that really happening is slim especially given that she’s travelling with (1) a real vampire (2) an almost turned vampire and (3) two wannabe vampires.  Not to mention Coldtown isn’t an easy place to live!  And, she’s a bit like one of those annoying females in a horror movie – the one who has to go and check the cellar, or trip over on a tree root when trying to escape.

I’m not going to go into the plot any further as there are a couple of twists along the way that I don’t want to spoil.

As I said above.  I enjoy Holly Black’s writing style.  She has a great dramatic style, very descriptive, particularly the horror scenes plus the book gets off to a really fast start!  I like way the story is split between the ‘now’ and the ‘then’, which serve to bring to light things not only from Tana’s earlier life but also Gavriel’s.  I also like the fact that the vampires are vicious and act like real predators and I like the story behind the whole vampire ‘explosion’.

Now, in terms of criticisms.  Well, firstly, I don’t understand why vampires, who are so strong and deadly, would so meekly comply with being held captive in Coldtowns – it seems to me that they’re the top of the chain so why aren’t we being herded in towns of their making and being kept like cattle.  Okay, some of the vampires remain out there – in the wild – but the majority of them live in a sort of self imposed style of imprisonment where their lives are on display to the outside world.  I also don’t really understand how anybody in the town really goes about their everyday lives.  There is no law and order and it’s not really clear how the people there survive or eek out a living – just simple things like where does the food come from – okay, it would be boring to have all that churned out in the book but I’m just curious about it.  Also, why is it that all of the vampires have to be so overwhelmingly beautiful??  Again, just curious.  It’s sort of implied that if you’re turned you’ll be drop dead  gorgeous.  Okay, well no wonder then that so many people seek immortality if all of a sudden they turn into this beautiful creature!  Come on, you choose, mortal, short, chubby, plain Jane or live forever, unbelievably lovely to behold, strong, fast and doted upon by your would-be victims.  I did like that the author incorporates a struggle for the vampires, this whole area of is the disease just really making their true self come to the surface without the thin veneer of civilisation and also that some of them were unable to live with the atrocities that they have committed and actually end their own existence.

It does look as though I’m being overly critical which isn’t intentional as I actually enjoyed this.  More than that, and rather predictably, I liked Gavriel.  Clearly, along the way I’ve developed a penchant for Shakespeare quoting, slightly insane vampires.  I would read more of his stories – he sort of puts me in mind a little bit of Lestat.

Okay, I’m not going to say this is the most original vampire story, it’s got elements of a number of things, but I’m not sure just how you could actually hit upon a truly original story any more as vampires have been so popular in books over recent years.  I did like that this had a feeling almost of the vampire disease being similar to a zombie style disease.


2 Responses to “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black”

  1. Carl V. Anderson

    I’ve had a similar experience with Holly Black’s work. There are parts I like and then parts that just don’t work for me. I did really enjoy her series written with Tony DiTerlizzi (Spiderwick Chronicles). That was about the tightest writing of hers that I’ve read.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I didn’t dislike this or anything. I thought parts of it were really good and I think she came up with a good concept, plus I liked the flashbacks but just some parts could have been shortened and other things added. It’s actually a pretty short story for the number of pages involved which I don’t mind so long as it doesn’t feel like it’s dragging.
      Lynn 😀

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