Holly Black is Back: But With No Bite

Giving Holly Black the Cold Shoulder

As an avid fan of Holly Black, including her imaginative faerie foray, Tithe, not many people could have been as excited as I was at the news that the mistress of darkness, gore, and all that glitters with ruby red droplets of blood was going to be penning another masterpiece. As one of my YA heroes, I was starting to cancel plans and clear my schedule so that when The Coldest Girl in Cold Town came out on September 3rd, I could read it straight through.

That is, until I actually got my hands on a copy.

It has been a few weeks since the release of her title, and so I suggest that you go out and get it straight away, if only to marvel over how bad it is. I was incredibly disappointed  and bored by the plot and premise. However, in defense of Black, she is a master of her craft, and I sincerely look forward to her next endeavor. If only we could skip this one completely…

No Spoilers, Just Disappointment

I first learned of the title’s release while interning at Running Press in Philadelphia over the summer. I quietly squealed in my desk when a promotional copy was given to me in order to learn about cover copy. I ran my hand over the smooth jacket, and stared longingly at the elegant, but effective cover design. I read the inside synopsis. I was entirely infatuated with this tale of darkness, seduction, and a fine line between humanity and monsters.

Uhm, hell yes.

However, to my horror and dismay, and this is not a spoiler, it is a warning: it is thoroughly and completely about vampires.

Fantasy at its Finest?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have engaged fully with fantasy for as long as I can remember. The moment I could even pronounce “unicorn,” I wanted to learn more. Yet, pop culture has been making murderous mistakes in this genre. Similar to the ending of Mice and Men, their targets of affection are squeezed to death with adoration. Hollywood, in particular, has been repeatedly adopting a specific, fantastical trope and then taking their proverbial tire iron and beating the everliving crap out of it. Zombies, as you can see from the popularity of The Walking Dead and World War Z, have been the latest victims.

Sorry, Brad Pitt. It isn’t simply your good looks that are contributing to the ratings of your latest acting masterpiece. It’s a fascination with the undead at its core. A fascination I even share, if you would like to refer to my other blog.

Love Bites

And thus, to some degree, I have the authority and ability to criticize Black’s venture as a horribly timed mistake. My only conclusion for such a sloppy work is that she must have began writing this when Twilight was at its zenith (in which, I have read all of the books, and have reluctantly seen all of the movies) and when True Blood was titillating house wives (and admittedly, cooped-up college girls like myself) with Anna Paquin and Bill Moyer’s love at the height of its popularity.

Fair enough, that is not a good enough reason to use the word “titillating” on my part, but I would argue that the astronomical ratings for these similar vampire adventures were not a good enough reason to suck this genre dry of originality by adding another work to its list. Unfortunately, the market has already been awash with the seductive transferral of blood and sex that the thin line between predator and prey as been criss-crossed so many times that it resembles a flight map of the United States, and so Black is not the most culpable. She is simply the most recent criminal in a long line of startlingly bad literary offenses.

The only redeeming fact of this piece is that Holly Black delivers an interesting take on the vampire myth. She is refreshing only because she ironically adheres to the old perceptions of the vampire, (returning to vampiric roots is now retro and cool?) and because she is a Goddess of the Ghouls and Ghosts. But sadly, not of unparalleled genius.

In short, I believe the shame should not be placed on Holly Black, but on the copy writers who refused to use any buzzword related to vampirism on the jacket. Except for maybe the word “bloody” which was a retrospective hint, for me. If I had known what I was getting into, maybe I wouldn’t have regarded this work as harshly. But then again, maybe not. Perhaps, they too were afraid of getting lumped into the vampire market. However, in this day in age, they are fooling themselves if they think they can capture the attention of their audiences with the same recycled horrors.

So, go on, read it. Receive your Holly Black fix. I purposely did not provide too many distinct details so that you, dear reader, can form your own opinion. Yet, proceed with caution. I will be giving The Coldest Girl in Coldtown the cold shoulder from now on. And also a medal for redundancy.

The Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:

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.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.