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.
Warnings: gore, descriptions of torture, bloodletting, violence, assault
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was, well, different. It has a darker quality to it – employing both the allure of vampire stories, the sexiness and the seduction of immortality, while also serving it with the brutality and animalistic nature of their existence. Tana wakes up after a party which had turned into a vampire group’s feast, and escapes narrowly with her ex and the vampire tied up beside him. What follows is the oddest roadtrip ever – because her ex is infected and he has very little impulse control, so she is constantly on alert, and her other traveling companion is an unstable malnourished vampire. Basically, good times. They are on their way to the nearest (and most popular) Coldtown – places where vampires have been barricaded with human prey (think iZombie S4) – when they pick up a set of twins. After finally reaching it, we see Coldtown in mostly grim tones, the glamour of live streaming wiped away with the cold reality of life inside a barrel where you are prey.
The best thing about the book is the characterization of the main characters – Tana, who is vehemently decided on never becoming a vampire, despite how easy it would be to give up and lie down and let death and immortality take her. She, through an incident in her childhood, knows the dreadful consequences of love and pity, and she is understandably aloof from the circumstances she is going through. It feels like she is running on pure will through the novel, never being allowed to rest. She is also aware of the right thing to do, which is why she tries to keep her idiot ex Aidan from succumbing to vampirism for as long as possible – he, however, is a man child who just causes her further trouble. Gavriel, on the other hand, is a vampire intent on revenge and his attraction towards her stems from the fact of it being a genuine case of ‘not like other people’. Like, she stands up to him, commands him, and he actually listens. I wish I could say the other secondary characters received as much depth allotted to them, but aside from the twins, everyone else just goes into the background. For a standalone, surely, I can’t expect much but when we have time to do regular flashbacks, we surely can get more time for other characters? (I did love that we had some diversity in secondary characters – there are POC, queer characters, and queer POC)
As I said earlier, the mood of the book hits somewhere between seductive and horror. It is dark, brutal, and doesn’t shy away from the truly terrific parts of vampirism, while also embracing the belonging the human residents of Springfield Coldtown feel. The life inside the town is anarchy, but they also have their own ‘found family’ thing going, plus the parties are dope! You can see how they draw in the younger inhabitants, particularly those who are of the emo variety, and also see how the ones who had lived there forever feel about all it. Still, this is all filtered through Tana’s view, which while expansive enough, is still very focused on one thing – getting in and out while remaining human. The ending leaves it on a realistic note, while also keeping it open-ended, and I liked the not knowing of it.
One final addition – the audiobook of it is pretty good! Lovely narration, and also coupled with occasional ‘horror’ or ‘jump scare’ kind of music, which builds the atmosphere perfectly for tense scenes. Overall, a delightfully dark vampire novel that hit some great notes.
Is it diverse? For main characters? No. But there are several secondary characters that are diverse, including Aidan (bisexual), Jameson (POC), Valentina (trans girl).