Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black

I thought that ‘dark fantasy’ had seen it’s day, that it had been wrung dry, but somehow Holly Black has taken this genre, twisted it around, turned it upside down, and created something entirely new, fresh and exciting. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a little like a mix between True Blood and Twilight, simultaneously pulling the same strings whilst also making something new. It’s raw and exciting; the vampires are bad – very bad – and the world Black has dreamed up is eerily similar to our own and yet entirely changed.

When Tana wakes up the morning after the party, the house is strangely quiet. Normally her friends would be jostling and laughing, recounting tales from the night before, but as Tana emerges into the day she finds the worst possible scene: a window open, the party-goers dead. All except one: her ex-boyfriend, Aidan, trussed up in one of the bedrooms, a vampire trussed up on the floor next to him.

Tana’s world is one where the vampire virus has spread into the wider population. A world where you lock your doors at dusk and don’t open them again until the sun rises. A world where cities have sealed-off ghettos – Coldtowns – keeping the vampire scourge at bay. New rules apply both inside and outside the Coldtowns; vampires are simultaneously worshipped and feared; and if you get bitten and the Cold takes hold you can be sure that everyone you love will be in danger.

I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this book – Tana is the perfect balance of strong heroine acting in the moment versus naïve girl running from her past, trying her best to find the better future and protect those she loves. Black’s writing and the speed of the plot completely sucked me in – the continuous changes of fortune, the black, white and grey characters dancing in and out of the storyline, the intriguing history of both the vampire Gavriel and the vampire menace. I’m fairly good at unpicking plots, seeing where they’re going to lead, but at several points in this story I really didn’t know who was misleading who, who knew who was telling the truth, or who was going to come out the winner.

Anyone can enter a Coldtown, but no-one can ever leave. After she finds Aidan tied up on the bed, everything changes for Tana – for the second time in her life – and while she may have a plan, who knows what turns of fate are going to get in the way of her seeing it through. I liked lots of things about this book, not least the fabulous new take on the vampire genre, Black’s witty banter, and the tentative feelings between Tana and Gavriel, but also the fact that while in some ways Tana’s world could be considered post-apocalyptic – struggling against a mass epidemic with no cure – instead of falling to its knees, it remains a fully functioning modern society, simply one that has adjusted it’s ways accordingly.

I have one simple question: Will there be more?

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