I feel like the jerkiest jerk because I haven’t returned this book to the library. I checked it out in OCTOBER and finished it within two weeks in between other books. It’s been sitting next to my computer for me to review and there’s a wait list for it. People have been waiting for me since October to get this done! I am so sorry.
I love love love Holly Black. When I read Tithe for the first time, I found a kindred spirit. I’ve read all of her YA and dug up a lot of her short stories in various anthologies. I’ve been lucky to see her on a few different panels at different book events. Even better, she lives a few towns over from me, so sometimes I’ll see her when I’m out. And then I embarrass myself by trying to tell her how much I like her writing. Seriously, it’s bad. I once walked past her in a restaurant and didn’t want to interrupt her, so I planned on tossing out a quick “Thank you for writing” but instead I sang it. I sang it. “Thank yooooooooo… for wriiiiiiiiitinggggggg…..” Think of the scene from Elf where they think Buddy is a sing-o-gram except make it horrific. I don’t know what happened in my brain. I then followed up with “I donnnnnn’t knowwwwww… why I am sinnnnnnngingggggg….” She laughed and thanked me. I went to the bathroom and realized I was going to have to walk by her table again on the way back to mine. I’m in my thirties and I had just awkwardly and painfully serenaded a favorite author. I think I managed to save it on the way back with a casual “I really love your books” as I passed by. Smooth.
Coldtowns are where the vampires live. And those who might become vampires. And those who are obsessed and enthralled with vampires and want to serve them in any way. It’s also where people are sent who are infected and if you can prove you’ve made it through your quarantine without turning, you can leave. But no one ever seems to leave.
When you’re bit by a vampire, you get cold. And hungry. If you go Cold and then drink human blood, you’re done. You get sicker, then you die, and then you come back to life, or whatever the category is for vampires. The guideline for quarantine is eight-eight days. If you can make it that long without taking human blood, you’ll be OK. The problem is that when you’re craving blood, you will do anything to get it, including trying to kill your own daughter.
When Tana was ten, her mom went Cold. Terrified of being sent to the nearest Coldtown, she agreed to be locked in the basement until it passed. Within weeks, the screaming was nonstop. It took a little over a month for Tana to give in, sneaking the door open to let her mother out. A moment, and then teeth tearing into her arm. Her mother wasn’t a vampire yet so couldn’t infect her daughter, but she was going to kill her. Her father saved her by killing her mother. Tana is now seventeen with a silver scar.
She wakes up at a party where she’d passed out in a bathtub with the curtain drawn. A sundown party, where garlic hangs from the windows and holy water is sprinkled over the doorways. Only something happened. A window left open and the house is filled with dead friends. Somehow they missed Tana, but she has to get out before they realize she’s there. She knows they would have gone to the darkest part of the house to rest, their blood filled bodies waiting for darkness. Terrified, she creeps to get her car keys and finds her ex-boyfriend alive, gagged and tied to a bed. Just out of his reach is a young vampire, chained to the furniture. He’s being tortured, having to look at this living boy but not being able to feed.
Tana starts to untie Aiden and he lunges for her, trying to bite. Horrified, she realizes he’s been infected. She’s in a room with someone going Cold and a full vampire sitting and watching. He seems to be panicking too, straining at the chains around his neck and frantically looking back and forth between her and the door. Someone is coming. Someone who will love to drain her life.
Without fully understanding why, Tana saves them both. Wrapping the vampire in as many blankets as she can find, she shoves him in her trunk. Trying to figure out a way to keep Aiden from attacking her, she gets him in the car. As she desperately claws her way out the window, the sun sets, the door is kicked open and she feels the scratch of something on the back of her leg. Was she bitten?
And that’s the first three chapters.
The rest of the book is Tana trying to figure out what she’s going to do. She wants to save Aiden but he doesn’t seem to want to be saved. She’s waiting to see if she’ll turn Cold and turn on him first. She’s either holding a vampire captive or being held captive by a vampire. And he’s cute and mesmerizing and dangerous but also seems hesitant to hurt her. None of this is normal, and she lives surrounded by things that aren’t normal.
Knowing her father won’t help, he’s been drinking nearly nonstop since her mother first went Cold, and terrified she’ll hurt her little sister, Tana decides the best thing she can do is get herself to the nearest Coldtown and wait it out. Somehow she’ll figure out something to get herself out after her eighty-eight days have passed. She’ll also somehow drag Aiden along with her, forcing him to wait it out, even though he’s looking at her, waiting for her to slip up so he can feed. She was in love with him once and he broke her heart. He knows what to say to her and how to say it and she hates herself for wanting him to be safe.
Then there’s Gavriel. He seems to simply be waiting. Why was he being tortured by the pack of vampires in the party house? It makes sense that they’re coming for Tana and Aiden, but what do they want with one of their own? And why isn’t Gavriel attacking his human saviors?
Tana just wants to come up with a plan. Coldtown seems to be the safest bet. If you turn in a vampire, you’re given a marker. Get out of jail, free. She can betray Gavriel, get herself locked in until her Coldness passes, then leave. She’ll have to figure out something for Aiden once she’s there. And she might not even be going Cold. She’s still not sure she’s been bit.
The Coldtowns have become the center of reality TV. Blogs, live feeds, 24 hour programming… the vampire followers are intense. Many kids fall in love with the idea of forever. They change their names and dye their hair. The set up elaborate websites while they are on the outside, making connections and families on the inside. When they are ready, they lie and tell the guards they have gone Cold so they can start their real lives inside of Coldtown. Not surprisingly, not all of them do well. They are often robbed as soon as they get there. No one quite knows who to trust. Some vampires don’t care where or how they feed. There are plenty of people who will hook up IVs for them to sip from, but if you find a human wandering about… Other vampires hate themselves and when the sun comes up, they stand in it, begging for an ending to what they’ve become.
It’s a party and anyone can come. While Tana isn’t the only one who is afraid, she’s the only one in her group who doesn’t want to stay locked up. Aiden is eager to see what happens next. Maybe he’ll stay Cold without completely turning. Maybe he’ll give in to his hunger. Maybe he’ll kill Tana before they even arrive.
And Gavriel? He seems to have business behind the locked gates. Tana still doesn’t know why the other vampires want him, but he has a plan no one needs to know about.
Get him there, get her marker, get out with Aiden. That’s all she needs to do.
And of course, everything goes to shit. People die, people disappear, friends betray each other, people get bit. Tana makes mistakes. She figures things out too late. She makes powerful enemies and traps herself. She tries to get help from people who don’t want to leave and worship the vampires as gods. She is completely alone, lost in Coldtown without any backup plan.
Well, maybe Gavriel? But she doesn’t even know where he is. Or who he is.
This is another solid book from Holly Black. Her writing is wonderful, her story telling is skilled and she once again captures than unnamed longing that you have when you’re a teenager. You feel like you own the world while at the same time feeling completely out of control. You want someone to be in charge while knowing that no one can understand what’s happening. Things seem so simple but plans become complicated. You feel like you’re in a huge group of friends while feeling completely alone. Black has a fantastic ability to pull from this turmoil and create characters who are completely relateable. Sure, as an adult I can roll my eyes at a seventeen year old falling in love with a vampire. But my inner seventeen year old is thinking “Yeah. Go for it.” And this happens because of Black. She doesn’t write weak, easy characters. Tana struggles and makes mistakes and you want her to win, even though you have no clue what winning is going to look like.
I highly recommend Holly Black to any fans of fantasy, urban fantasy and to people who just want to get their hands on smart, well-written YA. She is extremely talented and she’s also really nice if you sing at her in public.