Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Coldest Girl in Cold Town – review

Author: Holly Black

First published: 2013

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: All her friends are dead. If everything goes to plan, all his will be too.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is set in the not-so-distant future, where the vampire population has surged, resulting in the establishment of Coldtowns - quarantined cities of vampires and humans where predator and prey coexist in a never-ending bloody party of revelry. These isolated meccas of debauchery are the pillars of the pop culture landscape, with blogs, live feeds and YouTube videos constantly streaming from inside the city's closed walls.

Drawn into this bizarre and dangerous world is seventeen-year-old Tana, who wakes up the morning after a party to find all her friends dead at the hands of vampires. Soon, she finds herself in a race against the clock with an infected ex-boyfriend on the brink of turning and a mysterious vampire with a tortured past intent on seeking revenge, running straight into the wicked heart of Coldtown itself.

Conceived of and originally published to great acclaim as a short story of the same name, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original vampire story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

The review: In her acknowledgements Holly Black states “This book is a love letter to all the vampire books I read over and over growing up”. Then she lists a veritable “who’s who” of vampire literature and as you read the Coldest Girl in Coldtown you can really tell that the statement was true for the book shines with the author’s inner love of the genre, you feel that she wrote the book out of enjoyment rather than cashing in on the vampire gravy train.

Set in a world where vampirism has not only come out of the closet but spread as a plague we don't see the expected post-apocalyptic landscape but a world where humanity walled the undead into various cities and left them to their own devices. A world where life goes on and the activities of the 'caged' vampires have become mass entertainment. Any vampire captured (if not killed) and anyone suspected to be cold is placed in a Coldtown, forbidden to leave (except certain uninfected who happen to have a special marker, tokens worth a fortune). Cold is the name given to the vampire infection, a description of the coldness that spreads through the body, along with the hunger. A human can – with much pain – get through the infection (it takes roughly 3 months of agony) but if they succumb to drinking human blood and they will die and be reborn vampire.

As for further lore they are killed by a wooden stake through the heart, immolation (including immolation by sunlight) and beheading. Holy water and oil is used by some vampire hunters, on their stakes, but the hint is that its effectiveness is nugatory with scientists questioning the effectiveness whilst TV vampire hunters big up the idea. Pre the outbreak, which was down to a single vampire, the vampires only turned another with permission of the ancient vampires, made sure they kept themselves hidden and had one vampire, known as the Thorn of Istra, who hunted his own kind – especially vampires whose turning was a mistake.

But what to say of the book itself? The prose is engaging, the characters believable in the world created, though they could stand further rounding in any subsequent series, and the vampires themselves are dangerous – a refreshing aspect in a YA publication. The idea of youths eager to enter Coldtown, willing to offer themselves up for a shot at immortality, to me reflects the popularity of the genre. The world built will stand much exploration, if the author chooses to do so. I for one hope she does. 7.5 out of 10.

A shorter version of this review first appeared on Amazon UK as part of the Amazon Vine programme.

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