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Book Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Tana wakes in a bathtub after a night of partying only to realize that everyone else in the house has been slaughtered by vampires. Well, everyone except her former boyfriend, Aidan*, who has been bitten and saved for a snack.  In the process of saving him (oh, and the ancient vampire, Gavriel, chained up with him) Tana gets bitten. She decides to enter one of the ‘Coldtowns’ – a place where vampires roam free and humans live inside the walls with them. 

You see, in Tana’s reality, getting bitten doesn’t make you a vampire, it just makes you ‘go cold.’ You don’t become a vampire until you drink human blood. If you can survive the 88 day incubation period and deny yourself despite the overwhelming cravings, the virus will be out of your system. Tana is determined that she will live through going cold and come out on the other side. Once she gets to Coldtown, however, she gets drawn into the intrigue of centuries old vampires (thanks to Gavriel) and must learn how to survive.

I have to admit, I was a little wary of this book. While I LOVED (yes, all caps) Holly Black’s Curseworker series, I’ve never been able to get in to her Modern Tale of Faerie books. And then there is the horror aspect. Make no mistake, this is not a book that glosses over the horrific reality of living in a world with vampires. I’m good with suspense, but I have a strong tendency to shy away from horror and violence. Making the decision to read this book was a struggle for me, but OH, it was SO WORTH IT.

Holly Black has created one of the strongest, most realistic, heroines I’ve ever read. Despite her scars – physical, mental, and emotional – from her mother’s going cold and the aftermath, Tana is a survivor. Incredibly flawed, she is a character who draws you in and will not let go. All of the characters, however briefly present, are amazingly well drawn. The world the story is set in is completely realized. The story is highly engaging, with enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes while maintaining a solidly realistic thread.

I honestly cannot say enough good things about this book. It is certainly no surprise to me that it has already garnered multiple stars from reviewers. I will be very disappointed if it is not recognized by one of the awards committees.  Holly Black is a master of her craft. (All the stars – ALL OF THEM.)

*I couldn’t help but think while reading this, that it would make an excellent manual for teenage girls of what to avoid when choosing a boyfriend.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black will be available on September 3, 2013 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (ISBN 9780316213103.) This review was done from an electronic Advance Reader Copy provided by Edelweiss.