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A Reader of Fictions: Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Author: Holly Black
Pages: 432
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Read: September 24, 2013
Source: ARC from BEA

Description from Goodreads:
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.

First Sentence: "Tana woke lying in a bathtub."

Holly Black ranks as one of the premier young adult authors, much honored for her Black Cat series. Perhaps that's where I should have started, as it sounds much more original than The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. Now, there's nothing wrong with an author taking on less unique subject matter, but I think I may personally have reached my limit for vampires. If you're still into vampires, then The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is an entertaining, dark, gory read.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown starts off with a bloody bang. Tana, the heroine, awakens in a bathtub at a party, concerned about the pictures people likely took of her in that embarrassing position. After straightening up, she heads out of the bathroom to find a scene of gruesome carnage. All of her friends are dead, eaten by vampires, the first severe attack in quite a while. Most of the vampires are locked up in Coldtowns, so attacks like this are rare. In the bedroom of the house, Tana discovers that one other person has survived: her ex-boyfriend, Aidan, bitten and cold. In the context of this book, cold means a human ready to turn, a human who will die and become a vampire as soon as they have some human blood. Also in the room with Aidan is a hungry, half-mad vampire. Tana saves the two boys from the vampire mob that perpetrated the deaths of her friends and they're off.

The group heads for a Coldtown, which is not a spoiler since it's in the title, guys. What Black does well is the gross and gory stuff. These are not cuddly vampires. Most of them are creepy and crazy, as are the humans who seek to live in Coldtowns in hopes of becoming a vampire one day. Most of the sane people end up getting eaten, in fact, so I think you have to be a bit crazy to survive in a Coldtown.

Holly Black doesn't really add anything new to vampire mythology with The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. The ways to kill or impair a vampire are the same, they've been corralled in cities, and they've even had this overly simple method of turning humans into vampires before. I do think that The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is entertaining and capably written, but it does not stand out for me in the mass of vampire fiction, and I suspect I will not remember it for very long after I read it.

The big weakness is the characterization. Though the characters do say some witty-sounding things, they never actually have personalities. Part of this is the brevity of the time frame, all of this taking place over the course of the week and with all of that being serious business time. I have no clue what any of these people or vampires are really like on a normal day, except for Tana and Aidan, and what I do know I don't like. It's all quite hackneyed and predictable, with Tana ending up trapped in the Coldtown despite her clever plan and falling in instalove with the strongest of the vampires, who of course loves her too because she's unlike anyone else he's encountered in his hundred plus years of life. The logic that sends Tana into the Coldtown, too, is weak at best, since she wasn't even sure if she'd gone cold from the tiny bite she got escaping the house at the beginning. How about you wait just outside the Coldtown and see what happens? And if you're going into the Coldtown to protect your family like your dad asked you to, how about you also not contact them, as he also asked?

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown does the creepy horror thing well, and will no doubt have quite a bit of appeal for readers who still enjoy vampire stories. This is a read for those who care more about the action and less about the logic of the world building and character motivations.

Rating: 3/5

Favorite Quote: "If she was going to die, she might as well die sarcastic."

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Blogger Katie said...

I really need to read this one! I'm basically obsessed with Holly Black, so anything she writes goes on my TBR pile. Also, I've had this one for a while but haven't gotten to it yet.

You should DEFINITELY read her Curseworkers series. It was my first Holly Black book, and I was totally blown away. The characters, the plot, EVERYTHING! IT'S ALL GOOD! Also, OMG CASSEL SHARPE! <3

September 4, 2013 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger Nara said...

While the characters do sound a bit iffy, I really like the sound of the action/horror aspect of the novel! I feel that it's needed in a vampire book. However, I have to say that, in general, I dislike stories without solid world building, so maybe this isn't the book for me.

And yep, I totally second Katie. The Curseworkers series is really fun! And a rather original idea as well :)

Great review, Christina!

September 4, 2013 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Hannah said...

I will admit I'm curious about this, but at this point, the vampire market has pretty much been drained dry.

Pun totally intended.

September 4, 2013 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

That was my huge problem with it too: the characters. Tana drove me nutty and nothing she does ever real made much sense to me. I ended up DNF-ing this one. Which was a super big bummer because I loved her Curseworker's series and had high hopes for a new series from her... hope you give that one a shot!

September 4, 2013 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Ha, and lord knows we often don't agree, so you will probably love it. I hope you do!

I'm still planning to read the Curseworkers book at some point for sure. Even if I'd hated every bit of this, I think I still would. I am curious, and also the subject matter seems so unique for those.

September 4, 2013 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

The world building was better than I thought it would be initially, but I'm still not convinced that such an easy way to turn vampires is entirely sustainable, which is why it's not done often. I mean, sure, the vampires have rules about it, but without strict policing, which they don't have, I just do not see it working. It's not so bad as to be rage-inducing, but I'm not wholly sold on it.

I do want to try that series.

September 4, 2013 at 11:04 AM  
Blogger Christina said...


September 4, 2013 at 11:12 AM  
Blogger fakesteph said...

I initially had some of the same issues as you, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Yes, the vampire dude likes her because she's different, but for once, it's because of her personality--the fact that she would save him. I felt like that was a much better reason than her blood being his own personal brand of heroin. HAHA. And yeah, I wasn't Aiden's biggest fan either, but I loved Tana.

September 4, 2013 at 12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As sick as this may sound: yay for gross and gory stuff! I like my fair share of gore in books, though I don't see them too often. I've only read one other series by Holly and that was The Spiderwick Chronicles, which I enjoyed. And I never was into the whole vampire trend in the first place, so maybe I might like this a little bit more? I'm a bit iffy about the less-logic-than-action bit though... All the same, thanks for such a balanced review, Christina. :)

September 4, 2013 at 1:11 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Tana really does not make sense to me. She just sort of does stuff because that's what the plot says, but the WHYS didn't seem to be there. Maybe she's just completely not like me, but I was just like BUT WHY?

September 4, 2013 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

This doesn't have much to do with your review, sorry, but...432 pages? It feels like Holly Black was one of the only YA authors sticking to around 300 pages...why is everything getting longer?! I have read the short story this book was based on, and I liked it okay but it's definitely not my favorite of Holly's stuff. Some of the other short stories in that same book are really great though, so if you want another quick intro to her writing that might be a good place to start! I don't mind vampires so I want to read this, but I want to finish her fairy and curse worker series 1st--both series I started years ago and never finished. And I also want to read Doll Bones.

September 4, 2013 at 4:12 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

September 4, 2013 at 4:14 PM  
Blogger Jessie said...

This is disheartening. I am not quiiiite done with vampires (yet), but I only really love vampire books that bring something new to the table. I do love Holly Black, but that might not be enough to entice me to buy this. I really wanted to read it around BEA time, but the latest reviews have me... dismayed, to say the least.

Side note: The Curseworkers series is GREAT. Fantastic male voice, creative world/magic, etc. So far, it's the best of the books I've read from her.

September 4, 2013 at 10:23 PM  
Blogger Alexia Boesen said...

Okay so normally I don't like vampire stuff but I've been dying to read this one. I haven't read anything by Holly Black so I really want to give this one a try. I love gruesome and gory stuff.

That said, this review has made me really nervous to read this one.

Still undecided...

September 5, 2013 at 12:29 AM  
Blogger Bekka said...

Am I the only one who read the original short story from like, 2008 or something? It seems like it :( I really liked that story then; I felt like it did add something to the paranormal genre - maybe not now, but five years ago, sure. I was really excited when I heard that she was going to be expanding it into a full-length novel. But now so many reviews are coming out that are just so-so, or even totally negative. It kind of makes me sad, because I've always loved Holly Black's work.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do about this book. I cancelled my pre-order once the reviews started rolling in. But at the same time I can't shake my love for the short story. (Of course, if I reread it, there's always the chance I'd hate it.)

At least you didn't totally hate it though. That's good, right?

September 5, 2013 at 5:09 AM  
Blogger molly wetta said...

I do think WHITE CAT is a more original concept and I loved the noir feel of it, so it's probably a stronger work—but I did love the gore in COLDTOWN! Great review.

September 5, 2013 at 5:59 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

That's good that it worked better for you. I mean, I do see that he likes her for a reason, and it is a good reason to like someone. But to declare yourself in love with them after like three days when you've been around for over a century? I mean, it's not like he's a luststruck teen here. I never got Tana. I mean, I don't hate her, but I do not understand her decisions one bit.

September 5, 2013 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Totally doesn't sound sick to me as long as you don't like it IRL. Then, please may we not meet ever. :-p

I'm really not interested in Spiderwick, which I totally forgot she did. She has a lot of books! Maybe you'll like this more than I did. A lot of people seem to.

September 5, 2013 at 1:49 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Ha, they do seem to be getting longer. I don't really mind, except when my pile is huge like right now. I wasn't aware until the comments that it was a short story first, and, no, I didn't read it. Doll Bones and Curse Workers are the only ones I'm interested in right now.

September 5, 2013 at 1:56 PM  
Blogger Ashley @ The Bibliophile's Corner said...

I am so torn on this book! I keep hearing the biggest problem is the characterization. And that is a huge deal to me. I really can't decide if I should read this.

September 5, 2013 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger GillyB said...

Boooo. This does not excite me to read. The ARC is so loooong, but the cover is so pretttyyyy, so I may try it this weekend. Shame about it not being original. If you do vampires NOW, they have to be completely different from everything we've seen before.

That quote totally rocks, though. I feel like I should have that on my gravestone.

September 5, 2013 at 4:49 PM  

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