Holly Black is an author who’s been floating around on my radar for a while. I was intrigued by the fact that she lives out in Western MA, kind of near where we rent a house in the Summer. I liked that she has such an ardent fan base — from both readers and other writers. So I finally broke down and read one of her books, and I’m glad I did.
Tana lives in a screwed up version of our world. Vampires are real and the world is struggling with how to control both the vampire population as well as those that have been “infected” (i.e., bitten by a vampire, but not completely turned until they drink human blood. It takes 88 days for the infection to go away). In order to attempt some semblance of normalcy, the government has created various “Coldtowns” across the country. These are walled cities (our story takes place in the former Springfield, MA, which made me laugh) where vampires are allowed to live and feed off of willing humans (via shunts and other unpleasant methods). People who are “cold” are urged to move there (as it is nearly impossible to beat the infection on your own), and people who dream of becoming the next Lestat move there, too. The only way out is with a marker, given to you when you capture or kill a vampire on the loose in regular society.
Tana is at a friend’s party, passes out in the bathroom, and wakes up to find that 40 or so of her closest friends have been murdered by vampires in the night. She thinks she’s the only survivor, until she checks the bedroom for her coat and keys and finds her ex, Aiden. Poor Aiden is tied to a bed, like an offering, and he’s Cold. Also in the bedroom? A chained vampire (Gavriel), who looks crazier than anyone Tana has ever seen before.
Without thinking, she saves the two of them from the monsters sleeping off their blood fest, and they drive off to Springfield in order to help Aiden with his infection and to get a marker for bringing Gavriel to the Coldtown. And that’s just the first few chapters. Things really get out of control quickly.
Sound confusing? Well, to be honest, the first 100 pages or so were actually a bit rough going for me. Lots of details and rules. But I give Holly Black a lot of credit — she’s created a new version of our world that was pretty outlandish, yet still believable. The characters seemed like real people with real problems. Even the vampires.
I also enjoyed the exploration of what makes a vampire a vampire. Are vampires cruel because there was always something evil lurking and hiding away inside the human before they turned? Or is cruelty a part of the vampire curse? What about the vampires that can’t handle the life, and commit suicide every day in Coldtown? An interesting take on the Nature vs. Nurture debate we all studied in our high school Shakespeare classes.
I can only assume that this book is the first in a series (or, dare I say, a TRILOGY?). I’ll gladly pick up the next book to see what’s going on with Tana, Gavriel, and Aiden. The book was fun, and I enjoyed reading it.