Book Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

When Tana wakes up after a party to find everyone but herself, her now-infected ex-boyfriend, and a tied-up vampire have been slaughtered by vampires who are still in the house, she quickly rescues the other two survivors and escapes with them to the nearest Coldtown---a walled city where vampires are sent to live. Knowing she might be infected herself, she plans to wait out the time and then go back home, but she doesn't expect to fall for the enigmatic Gavriel or get caught in the crosshairs of his revenge plan.

Book Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black | reading, books, book reviews, fantasy, paranormal/urban fantasy, young adult, vampires
Title: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Pages: 440
My Rating: 4 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher


This is one of those books that’s going to be hard to write a review for because I feel like I can’t quite explain everything I’m thinking properly, but I will try.

First of all, I love vampires. And this book was vampires done just the way I like them: sexy, but unpredictable and dangerous. They might keep their fangs off you, they might give you a pleasurable bite, or they might rip your throat out; it just depends on the vampire and the moment. And even though there was a romanticism to the vampires, the author also showed the gritty, horrible, reality of them, of what they can do, of the things that happen because of vampirism (like people getting killed even if it’s an accident), of what it’s like to live with them in the Coldtowns.

And speaking of the Coldtowns (the places where the vampires lived), the world-building for those, or for the one that Tana was in at least, was so interesting and well done. The reality shows based there for the humans to watch, the bartering and businesses that existed within the Coldtown, the humans with shunts on their arms who were desperate to become vampires themselves, the impoverished way of living for many people in the Coldtown, the humans who never wanted to be in the Coldtown but got trapped there when it was set up, the markers for getting out and what people will do to get them, the neverending parties… So much thought put into it all. And I mean, just the idea of the Coldtowns in the first place was something unique I’d never seen before.

Another great thing about the book was the complex, flawed characters. Tana sometimes played with fire or made bad decisions but I liked her because she always kept fighting, trying to escape, not giving up, and she tried her best to do what was right. But she also knew when to stop taking shit and put herself first, even if it meant possibly hurting someone. And Aidan did a lot of crappy things to Tana, but he was still charming and sincere and sometimes sweet, and I loved his character because he was so well-written and interesting and truly flawed. I found myself falling for his charm even though I knew I shouldn’t, so I could totally see how Tana fell for him. Gavriel was interesting and flawed as well, just in different, more dramatic ways because of his past and vampirism and insanity.

As a kid, she’d occasionally wondered what it’d be like to meet a vampire that had been alive for a long time. She’d imagined it being like meeting a very old person, someone with a lot of experiences and a bunch of weird stories about walking around during the French Revolution. But spending time with Gavriel, she thought that every day since the one he’d died was not one where he aged, but rather one where he grew away from humanity. He didn’t seem older than he must have been when he died; just entirely stranger.

That’s something I think about even. I read a lot of vampire books, and I wonder, what would a vampire who’s been alive for a long time actually be like? Would they be like an old person? Would they act the age they look? Would they be monsters? Would they still just seem human? Would it just depend on the vampire? But that quote about Gavriel is such an interesting way of looking at it.

The writing was also pretty in this eerie, strange kind of way. And there were some brilliant quotes, like the one I shared above. I’m not sure how I feel about the flashbacks and some of the POVs that might not have been necessary, but those are pretty minor issues.

So overall, this was a kind of eerie feeling book with great writing, sexy but dangerous vampires, amazing world-building, and complex characters that I’m very glad I gave it a read!


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28 thoughts on “Book Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

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  1. Olivia Roach

    My younger sister read this one and she wasn’t too impressed which made me wary. But it’s nice to see a refreshingly opposite opinion and make up my own mind! I did like Holly Black’s Spiderwick series. Okay, so I do really like the sound of this vampires, and the world building sounds brilliant which is kind of the thing I like reading about! I just need to think more about whether this is one for me.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Awww, no, that’s a bummer that she wasn’t impressed! I thought it was great. The whole coldtown concept was super unique. I hope you like it if you decide to try it!

  2. ShootingStarsMag

    I don’t really have a set type of vampire I like – I do really love vampires though. I remember wanting to read this one. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it, and that quote you shared is fascinating!


  3. Lily

    I really want this book in my life. I love Holly Black and need to read her backlist titles πŸ˜€ this one sounds so great

  4. Bookworm Brandee

    I’ve always wanted to read this one, Kristen, so I had to read your thoughts on it! πŸ˜‰ And now I’ll be trying to add this one to the queue sooner than later. I do love Black’s writing – I’ve read her Faerie series which was also gritty, unique, and well done. Why is it that we readers find an author we like but don’t always stick with reading them? (I’m writing a discussion post about this currently! LOL) Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed this one and Black’s interesting take on vampires. I’m eager to get to it!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I haven’t read any of Holly Black’s other books, so I have no idea why we do that, hahaha. I’ll have to check out the discussion and see if anyone else can figure it out πŸ˜‰

  5. Greg

    Ooh I’ve wondered about this one. A) I need to try Holly Black, and have been saying it forever, and B) this just sounds like a trip! And the Coldtown world building sounds spot on. I loved this line “it just depends on the vampire and the moment.” πŸ™‚

    That Gavriel quote is something I’ve often thought about too. What WOULD an age-old vampire be like? Surely not just like an older human, right? But stranger? I like that direction she seems to be going in. Makes sense.

    That premise too- waking up to a slaughter! Wow that’s a good one.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It’s so good! The Coldtowns were so fascinating.

      Seriously, it’s so interesting to think about what really old vampires, or any being that started out as human or humanoid, would be like. Stranger is definitely an interesting take.

  6. Tanya @ Girl Plus Books

    I read this one about 5 years ago but it has stuck with me. I really enjoyed Black’s take on vampirism. And I thought Gavriel was a fascinating character. Completely mad at times (and that didn’t seem so illogical) and lucid and charming at others. One of the very few stand alone novels that I ever wished had a sequel.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Aww no! That’s too bad you didn’t like it. Maybe it’d be worth trying again? But who knows, I’ve loved one book by an author and then disliked another, so it happens sometimes.

  7. Laura @BlueEyeBooks

    This book has been on my TBR for FOREVER and I really need to get around to it! I haven’t read a good book about vampires in a hot minute (I think the supernatural craze of the late 2000s kind of wore out the subgenre for me) but I really want to get back into it and find some good vampire stories. I’m glad to hear you thought the black, white, and gray of both humans and vampires were explored fully; that gives me hope that I’ll like it as well! Lovely review, Kristen!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

  8. Tessa

    Yes to all of this! I know that Holly Black is mostly known for her stories about the Fae (which I also love) but she should get more credit for her vampires! The Coldest Girl in Coldtown avoided all of the cringey vampire tropes by keeping the characters, both human and vampire, complex and interesting. I also loved that it was a very morally gray world that, like you said, had a ton of thought put into the world building. I don’t read a ton of vampire novels because they normally have too much romance for me, but Holly Black’s take on vampires didn’t solely focus on the romance (but the sexiness she did add was appreciated too!). I don’t know if it makes sense, but I just like a good balance between romance and world-building/plot, which I think The Coldest Girl in Coldtown completely nailed.

    Do you have any recommendations for other vampire novels with the same vibe as The Coldest Girl? I really liked this one when I read it so long ago, but I haven’t found one quite like it since.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I haven’t even read her fae stories (although I do want to try Cruel Prince), but she can definitely write a vampire story! It really was such a great balance between avoiding cringy tropes but still capturing the essence of the Anne Rice-esque vampire. I know what you mean, I LOVE vampire books but haven’t read many lately because I just can’t find any that aren’t pure PNR, so it is nice to find a story that doesn’t just focus on the romance. Honestly I don’t know that I’ve read any others quite like this. Idk if you’ve read The Vampire Chronicles, but these vampires did remind me of those, although Anne Rice’s vampire books tend to be very slow paced.

  9. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I remember really enjoying this book but for the life of me I can’t remember all the details of it. Glad you liked the different interpretation of vampires here, and especially the concept of Coldtowns. Thinking on it now, I can totally see that being what happens if vampires were to exist. I don’t see them blending into society if they were discovered, they would definitely be set up in Coldtowns and folks would hope they would disappear.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Eh, I can’t either cuz I actually read it like a year and a half ago lol. But I know I really liked it! Idk, it’s hard to think what might happen if vampires were real. It would totally depend on the type of vampire and how powerful they are.