Stop being stupid, [Tana] told herself, even though it was much too late for that. She’d been a hundred kinds of stupid already.
I mean, I can hardly be accused of being excessively judgmental on a character's idiocy when she repeatedly realizes she's being dumb, right? :|
I know that Twilight is standard for the vampire book we love to hate. It's often been the butt of my jokes, and I often find myself mocking Bella Swan for her stupidity. With that said, I would read the Twilight series three times over before reaching for this book again. Yes, I mock Twilight, but at least it has a plot (however simplistic) that is rational and easy to follow. The writing is nothing special, but it is easy to read and easy to understand. Above all, however we tend to mock Bella, she is at best naive, foolish, completely and utterly clueless and without personality---but at least she's smarter than the incomprehensible pile of TSTL poop that is Tana. I cannot find any sympathy, I cannot find any respect, I cannot find any enjoyment, and I cannot find myself liking a character who behaves in such an astoundingly foolish manner.
Bella may be inactive. Bella is immobile. She is catatonic. Bella waits, while the world revolves around her. However boring Bella is, however irrelevant her character, Bella's actions are still more tolerable than the main character in this book, who, at every turn, has the urge to run headfirst into death.
The best thing about this book is the writing. Holly Black is a good writer, the writing in this book is poetic...it runs excessively so at times, but I enjoy that sort of writing, so it didn't bother me too much. What did not work was the plot, and the excessiveness of the book. This book was overly long for the material that it contained. You could have easily removed a good 25% of this book without losing relevant, without losing much of the plot. There was too much needless introspection, too many flashbacks, and memories, and characters' POVs that felt largely irrelevant to the main part of the story.
The concept of Coldtown was interesting at first, but ended up being a mess with a lot of holes and inconsistencies that my mind could not comprehend. This book's type of vampirism does not break any mold, but it was well-conceived enough. Overall, the reason why I disliked this story is because of the characters. I either hated or disliked every single character, with the majority of my loathing directed towards the main character and her incomprehensible stupidity: Tana Bach. The vampires in this book were uninspired, they're a mix between goth-punk-wannabes, or exaggeratedly suave and evil Lestat/Louis-types of Anne Rice's Interview With a Vampire fame.
Setting: Roughly 10 years ago, the world discovered vampirism because an idiotic vampire's mission to just drink blood from his victims, and not kill them. I think we know enough from zombie movies to know that things don't turn out the way he planned. There's no such thing as a little bite. Before he knew it, hundreds of new (and uncontrollable) baby vampires were formed, who then in turned infected thousands more, and well...in short: tons of people died, and vampires are now a presence in the world. Within the US, there are six Coldtowns, populated by vampire and humans, and those who are Cold (bitten by a vampire but not yet turned, with a ferocious desire for human blood). The concept of Coldtown is a mess, and the existence of vampires as both villains and celebrities doesn't quite work for me. It's the equivalent of having hundreds of thousands of people killed by terrorists, and then watching a reality show titled "The Real Housewives of Osama Bin Laden."
This world glorifies vampires, who are murderers, at the same time it glorifies the people who hunt vampires (Hemlok: Vampire Bounty Hunter is a popular reality show). Vampires have their own reality show feeds directly from Coldtowns, the world gathers to watch vampires party, dance, go to raves, suck on other people's bloods, chill out in sumptuous beds and making out with each other, dressed in glorious velvet clothes soaked through in blood.
It doesn't make any fucking sense. Coldtown's population and its rules for entrance and exit are inconsistent and again, nonsensical. It is an interesting concept, poorly executed.
Death is meaningless in this book, because there is so much of it. There is no emotion in seeing a character die, at all.
Summary: Tana Bach wakes up from a party, hung over, in a bathtub, and finds herself surrounded by the corpses of her friends.
The tan carpet was stiff and black with stripes of dried blood, spattered like a Jackson Pollock canvas. The walls were streaked with it, handprints smearing their dingy beige surfaces. And the bodies. Dozens of bodies. People she’d seen every day since kindergarten, people whom she’d played tag with and cried over and kissed were lying at odd angles, their bodies pale and cold, their eyes staring like rows of dolls in a shop window.
Tana is no stranger to vampires. Her mother was bitten and turned Cold before little 10-year old Tana decides it was a good idea to free her crazy mother from her chains in the basement: result, dead mother, scarred-for-life-but-not-much-the-wiser-from-the-experience 17-year old Tana. The corpses were clearly victims of vampires: they all have puncture wounds. There are blood everywhere. Tana herself might have been bitten. What should she do? Call the police? I mean, THERE ARE A TON OF CORPSES. Call her dad? Run away screaming for help? I would understand if she were to run away screaming for help. According to the government:
if you do come into physical contact with a vampire, you are legally obligated to report yourself to the authorities. Do not attempt to wait to see if you’ve become infected. Do not attempt to self-quarantine. Call 911, explain the nature of the attack, and wait for further instructions.
What does Tana do?
Tana started giggling, which was bad, she knew, and put her hands over her mouth to smother the sound. It wasn’t okay to laugh in front of dead people. That was like laughing at a funeral.
Ok, fine. She laughs. It's ok, hysteria is fine. I can understand that.
BUT THEN. BUT THEN. Tana runs into a chained vampire (who might have been the murderer), and her douche of an ex-boyfriend, who has clearly been bitten and is now Cold. What does she do? Why, FREE THEM BOTH. It's of no importance whatsoever that the vampire (Gavriel) might have been the murderer. It's of no importance at all that the ex (Aidan) may spring on her to suck her blood any minute (which he does, repeatedly). Aaaaaaaaaand off we go to Coldtown!
And along the way, let's just pick up a couple of twins goth web celebrities with a vampire-centric blog who are just dying (no pun intended) to go to Coldtown and become vampires themselves. They conduct video interviews! They ask Tana about her experience as a survivor of the now-deemed Sundown Tragedy. Tana is going to be Youtube sensation!
And we only have 200 pages to go.
The Characters: On a scale of marry-me to you-need-to-be-drawn-and-quartered-and-burned-and-not-necessarily-in-that-order, the characters in this book range from I-want-to-punch-you-in-the-balls to kill-it-with-fire.
All kidding aside, there is not a single main or relevant side character in this book whom I would like, whom I would befriend. I've said it before, I've said it many times before in many books, and I will say it again: I cannot understand how the main character in this book can be so mind-numbingly dumb. Tana KNOWS how dangerous a Cold person is. Her mother literally RIPS her arms apart when little 10-year old Tana somehow felt the urge to be a do-gooder and free her mother from her chains in the basement. Being Cold, having a thirst for blood is like an cocaine addict needing a fix, only 10 times worse because you might actually kill a person and rip their throat out in your desperate need and thirst for human blood. It doesn't matter whom. A Cold person's bloodthirst transcends friendship, love, rationality.
Tana KNOWS this. She IGNORES it yet again when it happens. Not only does she choose to trust the vampire Gavriel, knowing nothing about him, despite his veiled threats and warnings for her NOT to trust him, she tags along with him and rescue him from his chains anyway. When she learns his true identity, she STILL trusts him. Tana's foolishness, impetuousness, idiotic decision making never, ever stops, and I could not enjoy this book considering she is the main character.
Not to mention this particularly foolish moment: YOU WANT TSTL? YOU GOT TSTL. LET'S JUST DELIBERATELY BAIT A HUNGRY VAMPIRE WITH BLOOD.
He bent helplessly toward her.
She bit her tongue. Bit it hard, the pain chasing through her nerve endings and alchemizing into something close to pleasure. When her mouth opened under his, it was flooded with welling blood.
He groaned at the taste of it, red eyes going wide with surprise and something like fear.
NO! NO! NO!
Aidan is, as Tana admitted, the worst boyfriend ever. He is also the worst ex-boyfriend ever. As a human, he is a waste of air. As her boyfriend, he cheated on her, he flaunts his open flirtation with her, and he doesn't discriminate. Boys, girls, he kisses them all. More than one, more than once. He is a master at mind games. He is a smooth talker, a smooth charmer. Aidan has been bitten by a vampire. Aidan is cold. Tana doesn't learn from her lesson. Aidan is now not just a douchebag, he is a dangerously bloodthirsty douchebag. Before their journey, during their journey, after their journey, Aidan makes repeated attempts to rip out Tana's throat. Tana does nothing but admonish him. All Aidan has to do is smile, say something charming and wittily clever, and Tana will forget all his past wrongs. Tana is a fucking doormat on top of being an idiot.
And then we have Gavriel. The powerful, stunningly beautiful ages-old vampire who inexplicably, suddenly falls for Tana. His reason: she saved him. Gavriel has a penchant for overdramatization. He does not speak so much as make a statement. He opens his mouth to spout such gems of wisdom as:
“Fine, fine, everyone’s fine,” said the vampire, a mad gleam in his red eyes, crossing his arms over his chest as Bela Lugosi did in black-and-white films. “Fine as scattered pieces of sand.”
“You bid me to bide, but if I’m to burn, then surely you will let me put that fire to some use.”
"I promise I will repay you. [With] jewels, lies, slips of paper, dried flowers, memories of things long past, useless quotations, idle hands, beads, buttons, and mischief.”
Gavriel is at best, pretentious. At worse, a Louis/Lestat combination that never entirely works.
There a a pair of Goth Vampire-wannabe web celebrities and video bloggers who aren't even worth mentioning because they're just so fucking random. The twins, Winter and Midnight (real name Jack and Jen) serve no purpose other than to make Tana into a fucking Youtube sensation.
The Romance: There's a hint at a love triangle, and the romance doesn't quite work for me. Beyond the incomprehensible fact that Tana would feel anything towards the waste of air that is her ex, Aidan, her romance with Gavriel is equally implausible.
And then there is this.
“Allow me to explain how my whole life has prepared me for this moment. I am used to girls screaming, and your screams—your screams will be sweeter than another’s cries of love.”
How about you go fuck yourself, Gavriel?