Monday, September 9, 2013

Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Published September 3rd 2013 by Little Brown Books

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.
**An ARC was provided by Little Brown  in exchange for an honest review.**

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was my very first Holly Black read and my first vampire book in quite a long time.  I 'd been looking forward to getting into this one for months because it sounded like a fresh take on vampires while avoiding the fluffy, clichéd take on your typical YA paranormal book.  While I do credit Holly Black on her no-holds-barred approach to vampirism -especially one that takes place in a dystopian setting, I simply failed to connect with the characters or their journey.  The plot seemed like one giant detour into it's inevitable outcome and I found myself wondering why it took us so long to get where we were going.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown starts off with an intensity that's hard to beat!  We're thrown right into a gory and frightening world and for the first few chapters, I figured I was in for one hell of a ride.  Holly Black is definitely skilled at setting up a macabre tone and maintaining it, even with the most simple details.  You never forget the horrible world that surrounds the characters and the imminent threat of danger is palpable throughout.  This is not your typical fluffy, vampire read.  There are true horrors to uncover and the blood, violence and death within these pages in on full display.  I was excited by this fearless story-telling and eagerly read on.

My issues with this book began when we begin to get a deeper look at the characters involved in this story.  Unfortunately I didn't find many of them to be particularly likeable or relatable.  Tana, the main-character was probably the one I had the most trouble with.  Don't get me wrong, she starts out likable enough; I appreciated her bravery and her kindness throughout the book as well.  My issue was with her motivations - mainly, the fact that she seemed to blindly decide a plan early on, without really having enough to follow through with it.  She decides to voluntarily journey into the worst vampire settlement in the world - which is quarantined by the way, with her ex-boyfriend who is infected and a strange and kind of crazy vampire she just met.  All because she has a tiny scratch on her leg, which means there's a minor chance she could be infected.  All the while, she flip-flops between her secret desire to want to be a vampire, and her unflinching hatred of all vampires.  It's hard to get behind and MC when her motivations, feelings and thought process seemed so continually jumbled.

The other characters in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown didn't fare much better for me I'm afraid.  Tana's ex-boyfriend Aiden was supposed to be charming and sweet but most of the time I just found him selfish and manipulative.  Winter & Midnight, two siblings we meet a little further in are no better.  In fact, they were decidedly worse, each one having next to no redeeming qualities.  Similarly, other characters were introduced throughout the story but very few of them seemed likeable in any way.  When you're a huge character reader like I am, no caring for most of the character's well-being in a book is never a good sign.

There were a few exceptions of course. Gavriel was easily the most compelling and intriguing character of the bunch.  Poetic tortured souls have always been a weakness of mine so it wasn't hard for him to get my attention.  Whenever the story turned to his perspective, or when there were flashbacks about his past, I wanted to know more.  Valentina and Jameson we also likeable enough, but neither got enough face-time to win me over completely.

I think one of my least favorite aspects of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was how everyone felt the need to film everything.  I get how reality television is in right now, but having never really gotten into the trend, I was endlessly annoyed by people facing death and danger and wanting to stop to make a vlog about it.  I don't know about you guys, but if the world is facing a vampire invasion, I'm not stopping to film the damn thing.  This is a personal gripe I know, but I needed to vent about it.  It probably won't bother every reader, but I think the story would have been better without that added element.  It does play in to the plot eventually (somewhat) but I don't think it was a necessary addition.

To sum it up, fans of Holly Black's ambient writing-style and/or fans of vampire books will probably want to check out The Coldest Girl in Coldtown for themselves.  Personally, while I do still want to check out Black's other books, this one just didn't do it for me.  There were some good things about the story as a whole and it certainly gets points for originality and world-building but in the end, my indifference towards the characters and their journey really affected my overall reading experience. 

6 comments:

  1. Argh, I couldn't stand Aiden either. He was so mean to Tana, I would have left him rot.

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  2. Oh no :( This is one of the books I've been looking forward to, but I have to admit I've had similar feelings about at least one other book by the same author.

    I might still read it, but it won't be pushed upwards on my TBR :) Thanks for the honest review, Micheline!

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

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  3. Aww, it's too bad this didn't turn out so well. I really enjoyed Holly Black's Curse Workers series and was excited to see that she'd written about vampires this time, but it sounds like the characters in this one are rather lacking. I don't think I'd be too thrilled with all of the vlogging, either, for the same reason you mentioned- who has time for that when vampires are after you?! I may get around to reading this eventually, but now I know not to go running out to the library looking for it. Great review, Micheline! :)

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  4. Oh noes!! But relatable, likeable characters are SO critical to my enjoyment of a story, as well. It's crazy how not being able to connect with an MC's motivations and thoughts can ruin a book for you, but it can and it's so disappointing to me that Holly Black didn't get that aspect right! Because let me tell you now: you NEED to read White Cat. That entire series was brilliant and so are the characters. And I think you'd like the MC, Cassel (though I never personally connected to Lila). I guess I just had higher expectations from Holly Black after reading and loving White Cat, so this is an extra disappointment. The woman can write, I swear - and I can see you got a glimpse of her great writing style here - but unlikeable characters and a meandering plot is not what I expect of her. And YES it is SO a pet peeve of mine when people take out their cameras to film in dangerous situations to movies and such! Bah, anyways, I really appreciate your honesty and your very thoughtful review - it is from reading it that I have come to the conclusion to skip this one, sadly.

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  5. Darn! I'm sorry your intro to Holly Black wasn't so great, Micheline. I haven't read this book but I have read Ms. Black's Tithe seriesand enjoyed it. I hope you'll give her another chance. Thanks for sharing your thoughtful review.

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  6. I won't lie, I've been worried to start this or any of Holly's other books because I don't know that I'd like them as far as her writing and characters. It occurs to me that this hesitation is silly but it can't be helped.

    I know what you mean about characters. Likeable characters or purposefully unlikable characters are crucial! I have to WANT to read about them. I'd hate to find myself with the same feeling...

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