For some reason, the more I try to avoid vampire books, the more vampire books I end up reading. I don’t have anything against vampire books, in fact, I prefer vampire books to werewolf books any day of the week, but vampires have become such a staple of certain genres that they’re almost boring. What attracted me to The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was the striking cover and the fact that it was getting some rave reviews from some of the more critical review blogs I check on occasion.
After a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only survivor of the massacre is her ex, Aidan, who has been infected by vampires, and a mysterious boy with a terrible secret. Determined to save them, Tana enters a race against the clock to bring them to Coldtown, an opulent prison where predator and prey mingle and no one ever leaves, with the odds stacked against her and an ex with an unquenchable thirst for human blood, can Tana find a way to save them both? Or will she find herself falling for a monster.
This book is one of the most melodramatic books I’ve ever read.
The best way to describe this book is take almost every popular trope in vampire fiction, and a heaping pile of melodramatic prose, and sprinkle with quotes from Romantic period poets. In the hands of any other writer it could have been disastrous, but somehow it ends up working. It’s clearly a love letter to books that have come before it, but it’s also a weird beast. It’s like it’s so dramatic that it would normally be awful but somehow, somehow it isn’t. or else I was willing to tolerate it.
It helps that the main character Tana is a bit more realistic than a typical heroine in a vampire story. Although I found myself questioning her actions at the beginning, she quickly grew on me, and it’s hard not to hate a scared young woman trying desperately to help her friends when her entire world is going to hell in a handbasket. Gavriel is more of an enigma, straddling the line between romantic hero (with an appropriate tragic backstory) and monster, and Tana is all too aware of that even as she realizes she’s falling for him (tropes, remember?). The book doesn’t let her (or the reader) be complacent, and just as you’re starting to warm to the vampires, the fangs come out and remind you that while they might have pretty faces, they are still Other, and the Other is dangerous. One thing I also appreciated is that this book is a standalone title, so prospective readers don’t have to worry about committing to a series.
That said, although I liked the book, it’s definitely not one I’ll be reading year after year. I had to be in a particular mood to appreciate it, and I also feel that while the abundance of tropes adds to the book’s charm, I felt like there were ample opportunities to try something different, although the major twist at the end was interesting. I can easily see that it won’t be to everyone’s taste, and I completely understand anyone who says they’re turned off by the melodrama. This is a book that begins every chapter with a quote from Romantic poets about death, after all, which seems like something out of angsty fanfiction.
In terms of diversity, there are a few characters of colour, the most prominent being Jameson, who is Latino, and Valentina is a trans girl (who, interestingly, came to Coldtown wanting to be turned because she couldn’t afford gender confirmation surgery). Aidan, Tana’s ex, is bisexual, a flawed character who makes a number of questionable decisions but eventually comes through in the end.
Potential triggers include copious descriptions of blood-drinking as well as bloody imagery in general, the vampires in this book mostly drink with the aid of stints and needles. There’s also at least one explicit description of torture.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a strange book that I would have absolutely hated if it had been written by anyone else. I won’t say I absolutely 200% loved it, and it was incredibly slow at times. but I ended up liking it despite my initial impression of it as too melodramatic for its own good. It’s definitely not for everyone but if you want a weird homage to modern vampire fiction, this just might be your ticket.