In the acknowledgements, Holly Black calls this her love letter to vampire books, and I certainly got that feeling. This is a vampire book first and a romance second or third. It’s loaded with dark and gory scenes and preoccupied with death. Tana’s a strong and believable protagonist, the world is well-designed and the plot is nicely executed, though I did read this pretty slowly. Part was the busyness of my own life, though part probably was due to the slightly slow pacing in the middle third. Overall though, it’s a great, dark, modern fantasy that any quote-unquote real vampire fan will enjoy. 4/5 stars.
What’s It About?
After a massive outbreak of previously self-contained vampirism, Coldtowns spring up all over the country. In these quarantine areas, vampires live with humans in a strange predator-prey dynamic. Humans obsessed with the dark creatures and the immortality they offer flock to Coldtowns, hoping they too, will be turned. But once a person enters Coldtown, there is no returning to their old life.
Out in the land of the living, Tana wakes up the morning after a party only to find the entire house drenched in the blood of her friends. She and her ex Aidan are the only survivors and Aidan has “gone Cold,” or has been bitten by a vampire, and is doomed to become one of the undead creatures of the night unless he resists the irresistable urge to consume human blood. Chained near him is a vampire named Gavriel, of uncertain sanity and trustworthiness, but in clear need of rescuing. With more bloodthirsty vampires at her back, Tana must decide what to do in an insane, un-winnable situation.
My Rambling Thoughts
I just gave a lot of it away, but the beginning of this book was so great. It’s dark and gory right off the bat, and we get to know Tana and her past quickly and naturally. The opening scenes made me fall in love with the story right away, and even after setting the bar high, it continued to live up to its own expectations, carrying the tense and dark atmosphere throughout the book.
The world was very interesting. It made sense in that it was our world shaken up and turned around, and it provided the opportunity to explore contrasting characteristics in both vampires and humans. The vampire outbreak the society experiences was caused by an act of misplaced mercy, a distinctly human trait in the undead. Then the vampires explode onto the scene and a great number of people become inordinately obsessed with blood and death. The vampires in this world are scary, but they and the humans have more in common then they may realize, at least initially. In short, the story covers everything interesting about vampires and the way they interact with their human prey that other teen vampire books (at least the one’s I’ve been reading lately) do not.
I really enjoyed Tana as a character. I read Holly Black’s Modern Faerie series and I find Tana to be quite similar to Kaye, if that’s a reference that helps you, dear reader, at all. She’s smart, tough, and selfless, but she’s not a perfect angel. Tana starts the book hungover in a bathtub and she’s not incredibly ambitious, but she risks herself for friends and sacrifices her life (as she knows it) to protect her family. I also enjoyed her relationship with Gavriel, it was probably the strongest in the book.
Tana’s other relationships throughout the story weren’t as well built, though. I didn’t feel much for Valentina or Pauline, especially. Perspective jumped to Tana’s sister Pearl occasionally, but I didn’t feel the love there either. It was clear Tana did or was meant to care for these more minor characters, but I felt I was never shown why.
I also felt a little confused/bored in the middle of the book. There’s a bit of traveling around in there and the timing of events wasn’t always clear. The pacing slowed down just slightly here as well, but only in comparison to the rest. I wasn’t hooked, basically, until the final third.