Joelene Reviews: Holly Black's - "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown"

Black_coldestTana Bach wakes up hung-over in a bathtub; the place she’d gone to avoid her ex-boyfriend, Aiden, at the party the night before. Upon re-emerging, she discovers the bodies of the school-friends with whom she’d been partying. It seems that she is the sole survivor until she finds Aiden trussed up in a bedroom with a chained up vampire.

Possibly infected and unable to go back home, Tana finds herself heading for the closest Coldtown, a walled city in which vampires and humans live side by side, but not often peacefully. A place that no one is allowed to leave.

The book The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is based on a short story of the same name that appeared in the anthology Eternal Kiss. Having read the short story a few years ago, I’d fallen in love with the world and was terribly disappointed that so much world-building had yielded such a short piece of fiction. Happily, it seems that Holly Black felt the same way.

For those of you who have read the short story already, the novel does not follow the same characters. For about two or three paragraphs this was a bitter disappointment to me. But then Tana happened and my fickle reader’s brain forgot all about Matilda.

Tana is young and dealing with the stress of a situation that is well beyond her. She won’t put the people that she loves at risk, which means that she’s relying on her own instincts and intelligence while at the same time trying to keep within her moral boundaries. Because of this, the plot isn’t as smooth as I’m used to for a Holly Black novel. It works though. Tana doesn’t always handle the situations she’s in well, but that’s what I like about Black’s writing. It’s messy and unreasonable in the way that humans are messy and unreasonable. Tana isn’t always in control of her emotions. Sometimes the horror of her situation puts her on emotional overload and she gets hysterical, or she blocks it out. Her reactions are real enough to pull you into the story and keep you there until the bitter end.

While Tana is by far the best part of Coldest Girl, the thing that makes the novel work is how real everything is. Black has a writing style that makes scenes palpable. You can taste the atmosphere, smell the blood and crawl into the characters’ heads to feel what they’re feeling. The plot unfolds around the way characters act; characters are not altered to suit the plot. And that creates a seamless chain reaction that is almost impossible to predict, but is wonderful to experience.

It’s safe to say that I’m biased when it comes to Holly Black. There is nothing about her novels that I don’t love to an unhealthy degree. I’ll reread pages for her writing style. I want to be friends with her characters and every single plot of hers feels like an adventure. Coldest Girl is no exception. It’s dark, the characters will not tolerate any sort of stereotype and it had me hooked from the start. 

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown – Holly Black

Orion Books (September 3, 2013)

ISBN: 9781780621296

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