The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
by Holly Black
Published: 03 September 2013
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 419 pages
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.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.
The best way I can describe The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is like an incredibly vivid dream that was action-packed but rather meaningless. You enjoy it for its realism and how believable it was but when the time comes to glean knowledge from it, you come up blank. There were plenty of aspects I loved in this novel yet the details that irked me are also quite copious.
Starting with the good, the world building was utterly stunning and almost flawless. Black seamlessly incorporates vampires (the dangerous sort, not the pretty boy variety) into our current world so conceivably it was borderline eerie. Every detail of the vampires’ history, characteristics and basically everything concerning them were meticulously planned out and wholly realistic.
Black also did an amazing job on providing a completely understandable reaction from the human population towards the spread of vampirism, which had only begin in the recent decade or so. The reason governments kept Coldtowns running instead of simply eliminating all vampires, the younger generation’s addiction to vampires’ immortality and how vampires themselves felt about deathlessness was portrayed beautifully. I honestly felt like I could wake up to the world as it was in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown anyday.
Moving on the less pleasant – the characters. Practically every one of the characters in the story (with the exception of Gavriel, otherwise known in the synopsis as the ‘mysterious boy’) lacked development. Gavriel was genuinely raw, bloodily spectacular and completely brilliant. Plus, his madness was addictive in a crooked sort of way… Being such a colorful and captivating character, I would say he stole the limelight from Tana. A majority of the time the story felt like it belonged to Gavriel and not the actual protagonist.
Now, this is where I would start spouting my distaste for Tana. Firstly, she was appallingly invisible and undefined for a main character, half the time I actually forgot there was even an MC. A little like a welcome mat everyone steps on but never really notices. Then after approximately 300 pages of possessing incredible powers of invisibility, Tana suddenly decides to take charge and act out all sorts of badassery. It just didn’t make sense to me with zero build-up to her change of personality.
Oh, and did I mention her urge to “giggle hysterically” in every single stressful moment? It’s a normal urge to have once in a while but when it occurs at every single one of the pressuring moments in life, maybe a psychologist should be consulted. It might also have helped if the same two words (“giggle” & “hysterical”) weren’t used together in every one of those scenes.
As for the plot, it was fine and I fairly enjoyed it. Nothing to be insanely excited over. Although one issue I did have with it was that the decision to enter Coldtown didn’t seem like a big enough deal. Tana did not fully consider any other options she had, causing the situation to lack tension and excitement over something that should’ve been a somewhat important turning point in the book.
However, there are people out there who can overlook lacking protagonists and a mediocre story for a book with splendid writing and smashing world building. If you happen to be one of those people, I would definitely recommend The Coldest Girl in Coldtown because it has one of the best takes on vampirism that I’ve ever come across. On the other hand, if a unique and outstanding protagonist means a lot to you, you could probably afford to skip this read.