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.
Disclaimer: This book is about vampires. Yes, I know — you’ve probably gotten vampire overload over the past three or four years, but stay with me for a few minutes. I think you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised by this one — I know I was!
Erase all the glamorized, perfect and beautiful vampires from your brain, because The Coldest Girl in Coldtown rips the thin layers of veneer and glitter off vampire legend and reveals the rotten, icky stuff underneath. Sure, there’s a lot of indulgence, refinement and antiquity mixed in (as you would expect when concerning creatures that had lived for centuries), but there’s a lot of frank depictions of gore and modernity, too. Coldtown takes place in the present-day United States and makes heavy references to social media, so it’s a novel that has a gritty, realistic edge despite the subject matter. I definitely give Holly Black props for the meticulous attention to detail regarding how vampires became a worldwide phenomenon and how major governments handled the outbreak.
The three main characters — Tana, Aidan, and Gavriel — are really faithful depictions of modern-day (or in Gavriel’s case, not-so modern) teenagers. Their personalities are completely opposite, but they mesh well as an ensemble. I didn’t really buy the romance aspect of the novel because of the codependency vibes (that seems to be a big pet peeve of mine in fiction… why can’t we have couples that aren’t so needy?), but it was still believable and I appreciate that it wasn’t idealized. Overall, Coldtown manages to make vampires horrifying and cool at the same time, and without giving spoilers, I was really happy with the fact that Tana decided not to go the way of her friends in the end.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this book was expanded into a series since the ending leaves a lot of angles unexplored, but I’m thoroughly satisfied with Coldtown as a standalone novel. The ending was perfect, with just the right mixture of anticipation and closure. Regardless of what comes next for Tana, I enjoyed the way her story played out, even if she didn’t. This is the kind of book that will make you wax philosophical for hours after you’ve read it because it raises so many interesting questions about human nature. My only complaint is that the plot got a bit too convoluted at the end (seriously… can he read minds?). Highly recommended!