Title: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Author: Holly Black
Publisher/Publication Date: Little, Brown and Company, pub. date September 3, 2013
So, as with my review of Curtsies & Conspiracies, I’m going to start this with a little bit of fan girling. I’ve read a few other things by Holly Black and really enjoyed them. Additionally, I was lucky enough to meet her at ALA where I picked up my signed copy of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. Yeah, she’s really super nice. I’ve seen some authors who just sort of smile and nod at people as they go through the autograph line. She really seemed to make a point to try and chat a little with people, have a laugh here and there. And I squeed out loud at work when she replied to something I posted on Twitter. So yeah, I’m a fan girl and not ashamed to admit it J I really appreciate authors who don’t try to act all fancy pants and better than their fans.
Our main character, Tana, is a seventeen year old girl who lives in a world in which vampires exist and are kept, in theory, under control in walled off cities known as Coldtowns. Tana wakes up the morning after a party to find a house full of her friends slaughtered by vampires, her ex-boyfriend tied to a bed infected with the vampire virus, and a mysterious vampire boy. To her credit, instead of abandoning them to the vampires who perpetrated the massacre, she helps them both escape and the three set off to the nearest Coldtown.
When I started reading this book I described it on Twitter as a nice mix of creepy realism. I grew up on traditional fantasy and it’s still my go-to genre for when I want to read something I know I’m going to love. Urban fantasy, which is how I would personally classify this particular novel, has also become a favorite of mine. One of the reasons I enjoy urban fantasy, and something that I think is a vital component of urban fantasy, is the sense of realism and contemporaneity that is found. The way that magic intertwines with the mundane fascinates me. While vampires fall clearly into the fantastical realm, Black’s characters, their motivations, actions, reactions, etc. all fall firmly in the realm of realism.
When Tana is confronted by the dead bodies of her slaughtered friends and classmates, Black clearly articulates her growing panic and desperate attempt to smother her hysteria. Anyone who has endured some form of traumatic situation can understand this overwhelming and incredibly awkward desire to laugh hysterically at inopportune moments simply because our mind can’t seem to reconcile what is happening. My father died when I was 19 and I still remember telling incredibly inappropriate jokes to my brother throughout the funeral because I just couldn’t deal with what was happening. It has to be dealt with eventually and we see Tana struggle with this throughout the novel as things swing from good to bad, from terrifying to exciting, and so forth. Watching the emotional roller coaster that she goes through in conjunction with the physically demanding events of the plot kept me drawn in and eager to keep reading. I so genuinely wanted to see how Tana was going to stomp her own path through the opulent and horrifying world that is Coldtown.
So, as you have probably realized, I thought the book was great. The pace moves along well, Black develops the characters that need to grow but isn’t afraid to give static characters major roles as well. It’s a good mix that keeps the book moving while keeping the reader invested. The quotes located at the beginning of each chapter were a nice touch as well and add a lot to the tone of the novel. Now, go forth and read this book as soon as you can.