Review: ‘The Coldest Girl in Coldtown’ by Holly Black


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.

Just when you think that vampires have been done to death (no pun intended … oh, who am I kidding, it was totally intended!), along comes a book that shows you that, with a great voice and a fresh perspective, there’s no such thing as a dead (ha!) genre.

The premise of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is that vampirism is an infection spread via a vampire bite. Anyone who is bitten is infected and is very likely to become a vampire. Once they are infected, they become Cold, a state that is a bit like a living zombie: they are overwhelmed with a craving for human blood. If they drink it, they die and rise as a vampire. If they can be physically restrained for around three months while their body recovers from the virus, they remain human—but that is very rarely successful.

Until recently, the old vampires strictly controlled their population by feeding to kill (or by not using their teeth), and killing any accidentally turned vampires. But something went wrong; a newly turned vampire escaped, and the infection got out of control.

The story is set decades later (I admit I forget exactly how long). In the US, those who are infected, and vampires themselves, are confined in Coldtowns, where they are basically left to their own devices—imagine a Big Brother party house where the house is an entire city and there are no laws against murder or anything else. The vamps don’t run short of blood, because there’s always a fresh supply of humans who want to live forever, in love with vampires and death, who are willing to be a source of blood in the hopes of being gifted immortality.

Tana is a wonderfully complex character. She manages to be reckless and courageous, capable and caring, all at the same time. If I had to sum her up in one word, it’d be “conflicted”. She’s scarred, literally and psychologically, by events in her past, and so is largely immune to the seductive glamour of vampires. She doesn’t think they’re hot, she thinks they’re monsters. She makes a wonderful foil for characters like Midnight and Winter, a pair of goth twins who embody everything about vampire wannabes: their catchphrase is “no more birthdays”.

Aidan is Tana’s ex-boyfriend. I wanted to hate him at first, but he was so charming. I also loved the way that Black (via Tana) was so casually accepting of his bisexuality—it was great to see.

The other character I loved was the “mysterious boy” from the blurb, a vampire named Gavriel. That’s not much of a spoiler, by the way; I think you find out he’s a vampire in the first chapter! He is just as broken as Tana in his own way, often babbling and insane, but very, very sweet. When he’s not trying to eat people. Usually I don’t like the bad boys, but in this case I liked both Aidan and Gavriel, and they are both bad in one way or another. (Note: there is no love triangle in this book, if you were wondering.)

Often I find flashbacks really annoying, but Black’s style was so compelling that I loved reading the little scenes from Tana’s (and sometimes Gavriel’s) past. They gave some great insights into why they were who they were, and why they made the decisions they did. The way it was all woven together was simply masterful.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is the first book I’ve read by Holly Black, but I’ll definitely be going back for more!

AOaR_5star (3)

Cassandra Page is an urban fantasy writer whose second book, Isla’s Oath, came out in January. She has loved vampires since Louis swept her off her feet when she was a teenager.

Cassandra Page


  1. I’m a big fan of Holly Black generally. While I didn’t like this story as much as some of her other tales in her excellent anthology The Poison Eaters, it is still beautifully crafted. Black seems to me to capture the outlook of the young and alienated. Of course she’s best known for co-authoring The Spiderwick Chronicles. I’ll certainly be reading more of her stuff.



  2. […] Obviously, the state of the market is a factor if your ultimate goal is to publish traditionally. If a publisher already has a vampire story on the books, they don’t need another one competing with the first. But that doesn’t mean that two books about vampires are fungible (I love that word; so fun to say). They aren’t interchangeable. Just because Anne Rice wrote Interview with the Vampire, that doesn’t mean that The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black is unoriginal. (Anything but.) […]



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