Monday, October 5, 2015

Book Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

By: Holly Black
Genre: YA Fantasy/Dystopian
Copyright: September 3, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
POV: Close Third Person

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave.
One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

Main Character: Tana - Tough but that isn't the main point of this character (like how it seems to be with Katniss or Allie Sekemoto in Blood of Eden). It just is. That's what I like about Tana. She doesn't say or do anything fantastic because she's special, she just reacts in her own way to traumatic situations and in her reactions she builds up a special type of strength. It is earned throughout the book and I can appreciate that (probably because I can watch the organic progression from normal-ish girl to tough heroine)

Love Connection: Gavriel - A vampire that Tana meets during the after-math of a tragedy in the beginning of the book. He is insane. Literally. But that's what makes him such a fascinating love interest. Plus, the love story is super-duper secondary. It's definitely obvious who the love interest is (thank goodness, I am not the biggest fan of love triangles in every book I read). But even though we know that Gavriel is the love interest that's not the point of the story. So, therefore, the love story parts are really juicy to me since I had to wait for them.

Allies and Enemies: Aiden - Tana's ex-boyfriend who survives the same tragedy as Tana in the beginning of the book. I have to be honest and say I worried he would over-complicate the story. He's one of those chaotic characters who bring confusion and chaos to everything around him for little to no reason. I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed Aiden as a character and I actually thought he served a lot of purpose in the story and characterization of our main characters. So I applaud Holly Black for that. 

Midnight and Winter -  A brother and sister duo of humans who want to become vampires. These characters were weird. To the point of being a bit creepy. They both made me feel really uncomfortable, and therefore, they were really well-written characters.

Jameson - A boy who grew up in Coldtown. So he is a human who did not choose to be behind the wall. Because of this he helps the helpless and is kind of a local legend.

Lucian Moreau - The big baddie in the book. He is one of the "old" vampires who existed before the world became Cold. He is strong and smart and creepy, so he is obviously a very interesting character. I will say he became two-dimensional in his evilness at some points, but not in a bad or off-putting way.

Setting: Dystopian-like future America, after a vampire (Casper Morales) spread the vampire disease. It puts a spin on vampirism and one of the rules is that, once bitten, a human can be cured of vampirism if they don't drink human blood for 88 days. However, during this time they are considered "Cold" and will be violent and crave blood above all things.

I think there could have been a bit more diversity in this book. None of the main characters were very diverse (Gavriel did have beginnings in Russia, although that setting was only explored for one chapter). 

There was Jameson (who may or may not be latino). And Elisabet, who was really only in one scene but who was a powerful Portuguese vampire.

The best diverse character was a side character, Valentina. She is a transgender character who made many of her decisions (including coming to Coldtown) based on her struggle in the real world. This was a great way to show that everyone has diverse reasons for wanting immortality and also to show that the world is diverse itself. Even though her story was very peripheral, it was nice to see a character of the QUILTBAG community represented in the book. 

Random Thoughts: Great world-building. Nice cast of imperfect characters. I like it when the lense I am watching a world out of is not reliable/imperfect in itself. Tana makes a great narrator because of her personal struggle to understand how she feels in this new world. She had personal tragedy as a direct cause of the vampire disease. And she also has a strange strength because of regular teenage issues (i.e. an ex-boyfriend who was a little too free with his love). However, the best thing about the book is that even with all of the fantastical aspects of the world and vampire characters, it was mostly about how to survive and be human.

Tana's scenes with Gavriel are great not just because of the romance aspect (although the romance was creepily tantalizing and dysfunctional). Tana and Gavriel were a great pair mostly because of their search for humanity in themselves and their ability to see it in each other. It was one of those situations where someone else can see you better than you can see yourself. That's why I liked the romance in this book. It wasn't overly co-dependent or flowery or perfect, it was real and raw and awkward at times like a teen romance really should be (at least mine were, haha).

I also liked that there were characters who were unabashedly irredeemable in their actions. And these characters weren't even the vampires or the evil characters, but the humans that Tana met along the way. It showed the breakdown of the human condition/spirit through the different people Tana encountered. I thought that was a great way to show Tana how the world could be for her and let her decide on her own how she wanted to end up.

The book wasn't exactly perfect. I would say that one of my biggest critiques was the pace, it moved very slowly at points. I like that there was always a goal (try to go back home), but that goal wasn't very deeply cemented from the beginning. For awhile there was a question of what Tana really wanted, and it took a long time for her to make a plan or have any goals. Without that motivation I did wonder at times why I was following her through this story. I also wondered what the main conflict would be (other than how awful Coldtown is). Once we met Lucian it was obvious that he was the bad guy to overcome, but that didn't happen until like halfway through the book.

Still, the book overall was really good. Well written with dynamic characters and an interesting exploration of the world that Holly Black created. I like that it was stand-alone and that it came out of a short story. A good read that I would recommend to any fans of well-thought out YA books.


  1. I freaking loved this book!! Holly Black is a fantastic author. I love vampires and I thought this one covered the "lore" of them really nicely. You should read The Darkest Part of the Forest by her as well. It's sort of like that but with fairies.

    1. Oooh, thanks for the recommendation. I do really like Holly Black as an author, she writes so well and her characters are awesome. I agree, Holly Black's version of vampire lore was awesome, it's part of what helped make the book such a good read for me.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting.

      I'm definitely going to check out that book and your blog as well :)

  2. I've never read any Holly Black, but I think I want to check this out! I've heard other people that the pacing can get a little slow sometimes, but it sounds promising enough to look over that!

    Great review!
    Kristen @ One Chapter Ahead