The Dragon Whistler

The Dragon Whistler
Now available in paperback.


The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (YA)

So you're done with vampire books. They've sucked you dry (okay, sorry, couldn't resist). From vampire love triangles to vampire schools to vampire detectives ... it's been done to death, right?

Oh no. No no no no, because, see, that was before THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN (Little Brown, Sept 2013) by Holly Black.

This is dystopian vampire, a surprisingly skimpy sub genre, but it's a HOLLY BLACK DYSTOPIAN VAMPIRE, so, that kind of takes it to another level. Black's characters are always likable but dangerous, splashed here and there with punk influences that give them, and the story, a raw edge. Here, as with her Modern Faerie Tale series (TITHE, VALIANT, IRONSIDE) and Curse Workers series (WHITE CAT, RED GLOVE, BLACK HEART), the world is a strange, dark place populated with teenagers who push the limits and end up finding trouble.

Tana has grown up knowing that vampires are real, and were all along. They just fooled us into thinking they were legend, and were really good at hiding. Until one vampire decides it would be a lot more fun if hiding weren't the rule. Now the world has gone "cold," over-run with generations of vampire prodigy. The governmental solution: Coldtowns. Set up in the larger metropolitan areas where vampirism runs most rampant, these quarantined cities are ruled from the inside by vampires and pilgrimaged to by those obsessed with them, or looking to become one of them.

But this mecca doesn't always provide immortality, as many end up serving as human drinking fountains, carefully spigotted as to not pass on the vampire infection. After all, once infected, a human must either fight off the "cold," resisting the craving for human blood (a process that takes 88 days) or succumb to their thirst and become one of the undead. This is what happened to Tana's mother, attacked by a rogue vampire (of which there are many) and locked in the basement by her husband to wait out the infection. When the 6-year-old Tana could not resist visiting her mother, her father had to take extreme measures to save his daughter from her own mother's fangs.

Living with this past isn't easy, especially since, now a senior in high school, Tana has taken on the caregiver role for her little sister, Pearl. Their father continues to withdraw, unable to deal with the loss of his wife a decade before.

Then Tana wakes the morning after a Sundown Party (basically a house party/lock in to avoid those rogue vampires mentioned previously) and finds the entire party slaughtered by vampires. In one room, she finds the lone survivors -- her ex-boyfriend Aidan, who is infected and turning cold, and a chained-up vampire named Gavriel who seems to be an enemy of the rogue vampire party poopers. Saving them both sets Tana on a journey to Coldtown, and deep into the heart of the vampire underworld where more than her mortality may be at risk.

The audiobook is gloriously produced with amazing sound design by Hachette Audio, and read by Christine Lakin, however I wish I'd gone ahead and bought the hardcover because I'm still that kind of reader.

Based on her own short story, Holly Black makes you forget every other vampire book (Edward who?), building romantic suspense in a setting all at once familiar and original. For readers grade 9 and up, it's about as un-put-downable, or un-turn-offable, as they come. Is it the beginning of her next series? Holly Black fans (of which you will be if you weren't already) can only hope.

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