Monday, 16 March 2015

CBR7 5: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black

Page count 448, time taken 3.5hours, number of blue nails 3*.
Tana is a big damn goth who finds herself in the wrong party at the wrong time. Several times. I think she might be cursed. She finds herself travelling to Coldtown in the company of a vampire and her infected ex-boyfriend, and quarantines herself with them. She meets a bunch of other big damn goths, some of whom are more terrible than others, and makes friends. She also makes questionable decisions about the security of her belongings, seriously girl if you are wearing big boots there is plenty of space in them for small object, pieces of paper etc, I know, I had oxblood Doc Martens too. At least she uses the Secret Hidden Woman Pockets** a couple of times, so bonus points for that.

This is a great vampire story, and a reasonable YA coming-of-age/accepting-responsibility story. It is much better than a lot of the urban fantasy I've read, given that there's only one monster type, and the idea of Coldtowns as being quarantine zones is a good one. The story is very well paced, with a sense of urgency imparted in various different ways. The male romantic lead is suitably damaged and brooding for my big damn goth soul, and Tana is really great as a protagonist, being both strong and self-reliant and flawed and emotionally vulnerable.

It's been years since I read Queen of the Damned, which this book draws on pretty heavily, and in those years social media has gone from some people having terrible Geocities pages through to Twitter being the best source of news and social activism currently around. Black weaves blogging into her narrative, and the plot revolves around the media presentation of vampires, both traditional media and new media forms. This will undoubtedly date the book in another decade's time - no-one can predict what the next internet craze will be, and if they tell you they can they're lying - but right now the book is up-to-date and a pretty accurate representation of how the technologically literate use the various different forms of communication available.

As far as big complicated philosophical thoughts go, the story is a reasonable investigation into the nature of illness and addiction, and the way that people respond to it as both sufferers and the healthy people who have to deal with them. Whilst vampire imagery always revolves around sex and self-harm, both of those topics are handled really lightly, as appropriate to the age of the target audience, whilst being pretty nuanced. There is also a really interesting minor character whose interactions with Tana are thought-provoking in many ways.

The only things I can really fault the book on are (1) it ended and (2) not enough corsetry and black lace. So, 5 out  of 5, would recommend and will probably read again. With candles and wine as red as blood. And some Type O Negative in the background.

* I have Reynaud's disease so my fingers get very cold very quickly, and eventually turn blue. Normally this bothers me, but I have to say, it kind of added to the description of turning Cold. It was like a multi-sensory experience for me. I appreciate that that's weird though.
** Her bra. I stash my phone there too. Also small change. NB: if using your bra as a place to put small change, remember that metal heats up to skin temperature so it's very easy to forget you put anything in there until you take it off and then you have a reverse 5p printed on your boob for a while.

Cross-posted to Cannonball Read here.

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