I know what some of you might be thinking. “Another vampire book?” But trust me, Holly Black’s latest novel, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, should not be missed.
After a typical night at a sundown party with friends, seventeen-year-old Tana Bach wakes up alone in a bathtub, hungover and confused, with the sense that something is very wrong. Her fears are confirmed as she discovers someone left a window open during the party – and something came in. In spite of the garlic hung on the lintel to ward them off, vampires crawled through the window in the middle of the night and massacred every one of Tana’s friends -- except, she discovers, her charming, immature ex-boyfriend Aidan and mysterious the vampire Gavriel, both of whom have been tied up and need Tana’s help to escape.
The only problems with this mad plan? Well, Gavriel, while handsome, is dangerous, secretive, and slightly - or more than slightly - unhinged, and Aidan has already been bitten by a vampire and is turning Cold. On that note, this is one of the best descriptions of vampirism I’ve encountered in fiction, not only the change from human to vampire, but also the hungry, insatiable nature of vampirism itself.
Once a human is bitten by a vampire, they turn Cold (infected with vampirism) and bloodthirsty. If they drink human blood, the transformation will be completed and they will die to rise again. But it is also possible to stave off the change, if one is strong enough to resist the siren call of blood for long enough (about 88 days). Officially, the government requires people to report all cases of infection so that those who are Cold can be quarantined, along with vampires, in their local Coldtown, to prevent the further spread of vampirism. Yet those who enter Coldtown almost never leave, so many families attempt a self-quarantine of infected family members. Tana knows what it’s like to try to restrain the Cold – when she was a child, her father locked her Cold mother in the basement, and the consequences were tragic.
That’s why Tana and her two companions embark on a journey to "the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown."
|Holly Black, I'll allow a smirk since you wrote another kick-ass book.|
Are you hooked yet? I was! The Coldest Girl in Coldtown grabbed hold of me and would not let go till I was done. The plot is non-stop action (I mean it, like, when does Tana sleep?), and Black offered up a few plot twists that surprised me in their cleverness. After being involved with a string of series this year, I also appreciated that this novel works nicely as a standalone. The novel was jam-packed, for sure, but every moment was necessary to the unity of the whole, and by the end of the book, all plot threads were concluded to my satisfaction.
Part of the reason why this story about vampires doesn’t feel tired is because Black brings a peculiar, unexpected modernity to it. So often, vampires are portrayed as quaint and old-fashioned, given their eternal lives. But in Black’s vision, American pop culture is perversely fascinated by vampires; reality TV series follow vampire bounty hunters and broadcast feeds of Coldtown’s never-ending party for vamps and vamp wannabes, the Eternal Ball. Tana’s friends speculate about her disappearance by Twitter and text message and a reporter offers her money for an exclusive story. And at various times, Tana questions the justice of the Coldtown system that is willing to lock people up and throw away the key, simply for the sake of convenience and the illusion of safety for those on the outside. It reminded me uncomfortably of Japanese internment camps during WWII or the forced relocation of Native Americans. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown offers what feels like a realistic look at what would happen if vampires stepped into our world today.
|No sparkling here, gents!|
Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a not-to-be-missed, highly original vampire story that offers up some wickedly dark, scary, sexy moments at a pace that won’t give you a second to catch your breath. It uses the vampire theme to ask some important questions about the nature of identity and paints a compelling portrait of how our modern American life, even without vampires, may not be so far distant from Coldtown already.