Perhaps I should just suck it up and eat humble pie? This is the thought that occurs to me on reviewing Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (TCGICT.) When I last reviewed one of Holly Black’s works- Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale, I didn’t like it all that much. It was edgy and unusual in places, but in others it seemed wishy-washy- full of fairies living under hills, casting spells on eggshells and acorns, and generally causing havoc. It all seemed a little too, dare I say it, twee, and the parts that didn’t seem twee seemed too angsty and grim- teenagers bingeing on alcohol and shoplifting, with no interest in grades or careers- with no dreams to really speak of. I was just a little disappointed. But even though TCGICT has some of these elements, for me it works better. It’s a vampire novel, and vampires are better-suited to edgier stuff, anyway. Instead of living underground or in coffins, vampires are quarantined in ‘Coldtowns’ across Europe and the USA, where they hold decadent parties fuelled on human blood. Live feeds from these parties ploliferate the Internet, and bounty-hunter style vampire slayers get their own TV show. Tana, the heroine, is a young girl who wakes up one night after a party, to find all her friends dead, and her ex infected by a vampire. Probably infected herself, she has no choice but to drive him, herself, and a mysterious vampire named Gavriel to the nearest Coldtown, and wait for the infection to pass her by (perhaps.) On the way we find out more about Tana, whose own mother was killed by her father once the vampire infection took hold of her, and about Gavriel, who speaks in riddles and may or may not be mad. I found myself gripped by this book, and carried along by its dark, razor-sharp verve. Will Tana get into Coldtown? Will she get out of Coldtown? Will she fight off the infection? – all of this had me hooked.
However, I should warn readers that this is NOT a book for younger readers- there’s a sticker on the cover saying just that, but even so, it’s violent and quite bloody at times- chilling, in fact, in its dissection of the way vampiric violence has become part of the norm in this alternative universe. Also, I felt as though the romance between Gavriel and Tana was forced in parts- and the scene where she kisses him and then bites her own tongue so that he can taste her blood is just, well, gruesome to be honest. (Yuck!) I also felt as though it was a little too grim in places, with very little humour to lighten the sombre, dystopian tone. All in all though, an engrossing and highly original book, and one that changed my opinion on Holly Black’s writing. Recommended.
Overall rating: 9 out of 10 stars.