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Literature / The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

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"We labor under so many illusions about ourselves until we're stripped bare. Being infected, being a vampire, it's always you. Maybe it's more you than ever before. You, distilled. You, boiled down like a sauce. But it's you as you always were, deep down inside.”

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a 2013 young adult supernatural romance novel by Holly Black. It takes place in a world where the existence of vampires is known by the general populace. Vampires are required to live in walled-in cities known as Coldtowns so as not to endanger human lives.

Tana Bach wakes one morning after a party to find a massacre. There's no question that it was vampires, and she discovers two survivors: her ex-boyfriend Aidan, who has been infected, and Gavriel, an imprisoned vampire. After a narrow escape from the crime scene, Tana is determined to save the three of them by taking them to the nearest Coldtown.


Tropes present in this series include:

  • Aerith and Bob: You have people named Awesome Mc Coolname Midnight and Winter along with Aidan and Pearl. Subverted in that Midnight's and Winter's real names are Jenny and Jack Gan. But don't call Midnight that.
  • Amicable Exes: Tana and Aiden, more or less. They're not dating anymore, but they're still friends and care about each other. Though she does find him pretty exasperating at times.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Midnight. But not for long
  • Bastard Boyfriend: Adrien openly cheated on Tana without countless girls (and boys), played mind games with her while they were together, then dumped her over Twitter anyway.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Gavriel and Tana's relationship developed from this. Gavriel states that he loves Tana because she is the only person who has ever saved him.
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  • Beta Couple: Averted. Valentina and Jameson are secondary characters to Tana and Gavriel, but they have an even harder time admitting they like each other than Tana and Gavriel do for each other.
  • Big Brother Bully: Gavriel had a whopper of one when he was alive. Aleksander frequently mocked, humiliated, and degraded him for being The Dutiful Son while he himself drank, gambled, and whored the family fortune away. He then seduced and scorned Gavriel's fiance For the Evulz, and showed up drunk to the duel Gavriel challenged him to for his fiance's honor, to show how little he took him seriously. It's hard to blame Gavriel for snapping and shooting him anyway.
  • Broken Ace: Several examples.
  • Call-Back: "The Matilda video" is mentioned. Matilda is the protagonist of an earlier short story with the same title; she filmed herself pushing through the infection in extreme detail in an attempt to dispel the glamour around vampires. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have worked as well as she wanted it to, given the continued popularity of Lucien's reality show.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Coldtown residents Jameson and Valentina clearly like each other, but they're both too shy to make the first move. Tana finally drags them on the dance floor at the end.
  • Central Theme: Sometimes being merciful is the wrong choice. Caspar Morales tried to be merciful by letting everyone he fed on live, but because he bit them directly, he unleashed uncontrolled newbie vampires on multiple major cities and blew up society as we knew it. Tana freeing her infected mother nearly got her killed, and did get her mother killed. Gavriel was ordered to kill Caspar before the outbreaks, but spared him instead. In the end, when Lucien begs for his life, Tana kills him, and Gavriel promises he will not be merciful to Tana while she sweats out the infection.
  • The Charmer: Aidan. It's how he gets away with being The Casanova. When he and Tana were dating, she took it as a sort of Don't React challenge.
  • Clothing Damage: Tana's outfits frequently suffer this, but it serves as an indication of trauma rather than fanservice. She even lampshades this.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Gavriel, full stop. Frequently lampshaded by most other characters.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Landers Minder: Tana to Gavriel on their way to Coldtown. Gavriel's vampiric strength and hunger, coupled with his scattered thoughts and erratic behavior, leaves the other human characters freaked out. He also attacks and almost drains Aiden, Winter, and Midnight, in short order. Only Tana has any semblance of control over him, since she's the only person he'll listen to.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Tana, who has no formal weapons or martial arts training.
  • Coordinated Clothes: Midnight and Winter wear coordinated clothes.
  • Creepy Twins: Midnight and Winter try to invoke this in-universe. They come off as rather overdramatic, though.
  • Dead All Along: Gavriel was the Thorn of Istra and the new Spider all along.
  • Defiant to the End: Tana figured that if she was going to die confronting Lucien about his role in the murders of her classmates, she may as well die sarcastic.
  • The Dragon: Gavriel was once this to Lucien, before he was forced into the Spider's service as the Thorn of Istra. The work wasn't much different, though. He went from killing human murderers to killing wayward newly-turned vampires to prevent vampire outbreaks or army buildups.
  • Driven to Madness: Oh, Gavriel.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Gavriel, full stop.
  • Fangs Are Evil: Well, this IS a book about vampires, some of whom are antagonists.
  • Fantastic Ghetto: The Coldtowns that vampires are sent to and humans choose to enter in hopes of getting turned and partying for eternity.
  • Forced into Evil: Anyone infected by the vampire virus gets overwhelming urges to drink blood, and newly-born vampires usually require enough blood to kill at least one person (and, if not restrained, many more). Therefore, most or all vampires have committed manslaughter, and some just keep going.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Since Aiden has never even tried to control his hedonistic impulses, and beating the Cold requires fighting the uncontrollable urge to drink human blood for over sixty eight days, he feels it's only a matter of time before he succumbs. He's right.
  • From Bad to Worse: Gavriel's whole backstory. See Trauma Conga Line for more details.
  • Going for the Big Scoop: The reason Bill Story chose to stay in Coldtown. He died for it.
  • Goth: The twins, Midnight and Winter.
  • The Hedonist: Adrien, who fully admits he never even tried to contain his desires.
    • Gavriel's older brother Alexander, drank, gambled, and whored the family fortune away, and seduced then spurned Gavriel's fiance just to prove he could.
    • Gavriel himself briefly, out of grief from killing his brother and having to flee the country in disgrace. It's how he met Lucien.
  • Hemo Erotic: Tana bites her tongue while she and Gavriel are kissing, so he can feed on her blood. For vampires, drinking blood has been compared to "ecstasy" and "pure bliss", so it was a pretty good turn-on.
  • Hunter of Monsters: Bounty hunters are not uncommon, and rewards are offered by both the government and individuals for capturing and/or killing vampires. Pearl is a fan of Hemlok the Vampire Hunter, a reality television series.
  • Inn of No Return: Inversed. It's the innkeepers that don't walk out alive when Gavriel spends the night.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Valentina and Jameson, for each other. Valentina because she's afraid he won't accept her for being trans, Jameson because he can't believe a girl as beautiful and classy as her would go for someone like him.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Bill Story. He's not the only reporter to ever cover the Fantastic Ghetto that is Coldtown, but he's probably been there the longest.
  • It Amused Me: The ending reveals that Gavriel was planning on letting Lucien's men take him back to his lair so he could kill him from the beginning. He just let Tana rescue him because he was curious to see how the little detour would carry out. (Also because he was touched that someone chose to save him for the first time in his life).
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Aiden was self-centered and thoughtless even before the trauma of seeing all his friends slaughtered and getting infected and tied up as a meal for Gavriel. In fact being a vampire actually improves his personality, which maybe says something. However, his worst behavior afterwards is explicitly at least half-driven by a Survivor's Guilt -induced deathwish, and in the end he helps Tana by finding and protecting Pearl.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: It's hard to feel bad for Aleksander when Gavriel shoots him through the heart in a duel.
    • Same with Lucien when Tana has him at her mercy and he begs her to spare his life. After all the horror and suffering he's inflicted particularly on Gavriel, it's hard not to cheer when she kills him anyway.
  • Killing in Self-Defense: What else are you supposed to do when a grief-mad vampire jumps you in an alleyway?
  • Laughing Mad: Gavriel on several occasions, particularly in his Tragic Backstory.
  • Light Is Not Good/Dark Is Not Evil: Lucien and Gavriel respectively. Lucien, whose name means "light", is fair, blond, and often wears white clothing, but he's the main antagonist. Gavriel is an Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette who primarily wears black, but is a nominally good vampire under all his madness.
  • The Load: Adrien is dead weight during his recue and trip to Coldtown, and both Tana and Gavriel lampshade it many times.
  • Love Martyr: Winter is a rare platonic example to his twin sister, Midnight. He's clearly not as into the vampire stuff and doesn't want to go to Coldtown, but he goes along with it anyway to make his sister happy. She seems too self-absorbed to notice his feelings, accidentally kills him when she becomes a vampire, and gets over it quickly.
  • Masochism Tango: Aidan and Tana's relationship. He shamelessly flirted with other girls (and boys), and she pretended not to care. They've broken up, but they still care for each other.
  • Mauve Shirt: While he gets more characterization than random side characters, Winter has significantly less dialogue and characterization than the rest of the group on their way to Coldtown (Tana, Aiden, Gavriel, and Midnight), so so in a book where Anyone Can Die you know he isn't long for this world.
  • Mind Game Ship: invoked How Tana thinks of her relationship with Aidan. He often complained of ex-girlfriends acting like clingy jealous girls, but then kept flirting and making out with other people while carefully watching her reaction. Tana felt compelled to shrug it off and pretend it didn't bother her so as not to appear uncool, to win his unspoken mind games. Then he dumped her over Twitter anyway.
  • Missing Mom: Tana's mom. She was infected by a vampire bite and was made into the Madwoman in the Attic. She persuaded young Tana to let her out and attack her, forcing her father to kill her on the spot. Tana considers her mother's death her greatest failure.
  • Morality Chain: Tana is arguably one for Gavriel. She prevents him from draining Midnight and Winter when they first meet.
  • Morton's Fork: Gavriel's older brother puts him in this dilemma by showing up drunk to their duel. Gavriel can kill his brother when he's too drunk to defend himself, making it an honor-less victory and be ridden with guilt for the rest of his life. Or he could walk away from the duel, forfeiting his honor and being marked a craven (in a society where upholding honor is Serious Business) for the rest of his life. Either way, his honor is forfeit and the rest of his emotional life is ruined. Gavriel figures that since he's damned either way, might as well Kick the Son of a Bitch.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Midnight in spades.
  • Nightmare Fuel: invoked Imagine being eviscerated, beaten, having your eyes gouged out, only for them to grow back and the process to repeat. For ten years. Prometheus was apparently a big inspiration for the old vampires.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: In-universe vampirism is a virus. Infected people are referred to as having "gone cold." It can take up to sixty-eight days to heal from the time of being bitten, and if a person consumes human blood before the infection is out of their system they'll turn into a vampire.
    • It is difficult, dangerous, and expensive to keep someone who's gone Cold contained. Legally, the infected are required to be sent to Coldtowns just like vampires.
  • Out-Gambitted: Lucien and Gavriel agree to put in Gavriel in fake chains before the Spider and his retinue, so that Lucien's guards can kill the Spider, but Chronic Backstabber Lucien actually plots to get Gavriel killed instead. It turns out Gavriel IS the Spider, having killed him to escape, and it's Lucien who gets his ass kicked.
  • Pet the Dog: Aidan may be kind of a dick, but he's always been nice to Pearl, Tana's little sister.
  • Please Kill Me If It Satisfies You: Back when Lucien, Elisabet, and Gavriel were best friends, Gavriel offers his life to the Spider in exchange for Lucien's. He got Indentured Servitude instead.
  • Rescue Romance: Tana and Gavriel, because she refused to leave him behind for the other vampires.
    Gavriel: Tana. In all my long life, though there were many times I prayed for it, no one has ever saved me. No one but you.
  • The Reveal:
    • Gavriel is the Thorn of Istra.
    "The Thorn of Istra, the mad vampire. She thought of the grainy video of him she had seen, head tipped back, so covered in blood that she hadn't remembered his features, hadn't remembered him as looking like anything but a monster, laughing, endlessly laughing. Mad as a dog. Mad as a god. Gavriel."
    • Gavriel might have left Caspar Morales alive to cause the outbreaks, but Lucien is the one who turned him.
    • And then, at the very end, Gavriel was the new Spider all along.
  • Rewatch Bonus: A lot of the book's plot and mystery can be seen in a new light once the reader learns Gavriel has been both the Thorn of Istra and the new Spider the whole time.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Christobel, Rufus, Winter, and Midnight intend Tana to be this when they lock her in a room with an infected Aidan. It backfires horribly on them when Tana escapes and they let out a hungry newborn vampire.
  • Shipper on Deck: Tana to Valentina and Jameson. She tries to invoke a Dance of Romance at the Dance Party Ending.
  • Sibling Murder: Tragically, a newly-turned Midnight drains her brother after feeding went too far.
  • Slasher Smile: Gavriel sports one of these in his more homicidal moments.
  • Strange Girl: Midnight, who has blue hair and is obsessed with vampires and immortality.
  • Super Strength: Another perk of vampirism. Drinking another vampire's blood makes that vampire even stronger.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Elisabet. Despite being Lucien's mate and century-long partner, he casually murders her to convince Gavriel to drop his grudge against him. Even Gavriel is shocked by the suddenness of it all. Several characters are still adjusting to it several chapters later.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Gavriel's entire backstory. His Big Brother Bully seduced his fiance and then scorned her For the Evulz. Gavriel challenged him to a duel, which Aleksander didn't even take seriously enough to show up sober, giving him a Sadistic Choice to either murder a man who couldn't defend himself, or face the shame of backing out of the duel forever. He killed his brother for it, which caused his fiance to commit suicide, and him to have to leave his mom and sister. Then he got bitten by a vampire, and was later offered a servant girl to complete the transformation, which he refused to spare her life. Later, he accidentally massacred an innkeeping family during his transformation, and found out Lucien killed the girl anyway. He figured he couldn't get any more damned and started killing murderers. His sister renounced him as a demon, then got turned into a vampire by his master, and promptly committed suicide. He was then manipulated by his master to take the fall for creating him in the first place, but was made into the Spider's personal hitman instead. Then, his old master Lucien decided to taunt him by deliberately creating targets that resembled his brother. Finally broken down from the jests, he let one go, and was then tortured for ten years for sparing the person who spawned the vampirism outbreak. Driven to Madness indeed.
  • Trans Equals Gay: Averted. Valentina is a transwoman. The narrative makes it clear that she is female, and she has a crush on Jameson as a girl who likes a boy, not as a gay boy dressed as a girl who who likes another boy. In fact, the main reason she won't pursue him is she's afraid he wouldn't like her without her underwear on.
  • Trans Relationship Troubles: The book features an interesting variation, Valentina is a trans woman who has a crush on her friend Jameson. One of the main reasons she won't pursue a relationship with him is that she's afraid if he found out about her being trans, he'd reject her. Turns out though though that he also had a thing for her as well and that he genuinely doesn't care about that at all.
  • Uncanny Valley: Gavriel, in-universe. Partly because his vampiric features and mannerisms clash with his seemingly normal teenage boy appearance, partly because his own off-kilter personality causes him to move, speak, and act in a very erratic and unsettling manner.
  • Undying Loyalty: Winter to Midnight. He follows her into Coldtown even when he gets cold feet about becoming a vampire there. He dies there a few days later.
  • The Vamp: Elisabet is hinted at having been this before living in Coldtown.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: How vampires are perceived in-universe by a large subset of the human population. The fact they have live broadcasts and reality TV shows helps.
  • Vampire Vords: Averted with Gavriel, who was a Russian aristocrat but is described by Tana as having an unidentifiable accent.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: How Gavriel became the new Spider.


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