As the fashion for paranormal teen books starts to wane slightly, a book with vampires has to have a very unique hook so as not to be seen as derivative. Holly Black does this masterfully, giving a new presentation of vampires whilst adhering to some of the basic elements of the genre: her vampires are still very much light-shy, dangerously violent creatures.
In Black’s world, vampirism is portrayed as a combination of an epidemic and hedonistic celebrity. Bitten humans can be saved: but must be quarantined through the withdrawal. To stop the spread of the disease, vampires and infected humans live in Coldtowns. But these towns have a celebrity glamour, and immortality chasers want in.
When Tana awakes after a party, vampires have left nearly everyone dead, except her ex boyfriend Aidan who has been infected and trapped in a room with a chained vampire, Gavriel. In a moment of compassion, Tana saves them both, but in escaping worries she has been bitten by another vampire. They head to a Coldtown so as not to put anyone in danger.
This is not a fast paced read, but it doesn’t need to be. With a host of characters inside the Coldtown with their own politics, agendas and relationships, it is an astute story set in a world of damaged perceptions: teenagers desperate to be vampires and the Coldtowns streamed as glamorous reality TV. Tana is a believable teenager, and whilst Gavriel is the love interest here, Tana recognises him as unstable and possibly insane – vampires are never presented as safe. Tana’s final decisions will surprise readers in a satisfying way. A successfully thrilling and original teen vampire book.