Review posted February 9, 2014.
Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2013. 422 pages.
I'm not a fan of vampire novels. In fact, I liked Twilight specifically because it didn't read like a vampire novel. However, I am a fan of Holly Black. So when she wrote a vampire novel, I had to at least try it.
Tana wakes up after a big party lying in a bathtub. When she goes out to see where everyone else is, she finds them all dead.
One of the windows was open, she noticed, curtain fluttering. The party must have gotten too warm, everyone sweating in the small house and yearning for the cool breeze just outside. Then, once the window was open, it would have been easy to forget to close it. There was still the garlic, after all, still the holy water on the lintels. Things like this happened in Europe, in places like Belgium, where the streets teemed with vampires and the shops didn't open until after dark. Not here. Not in Tana's town, where there hadn't been a single attack in more than five years.
And yet it had happened. A window had been left open to the night, and a vampire had crawled through.
But Tana learns that not everyone is dead after all. Aidan, her ex-boyfriend, has been bitten, but is alive, and tied to a bed. And there's a vampire boy chained beside the bed.
When Tana was six, vampires were Muppets, endlessly counting, or cartoon villains in black cloaks with red polyester linings. Kids would dress up like vampires on Halloween, wearing plastic teeth that fitted badly over their own and smearing their faces with sweet syrup to make mock rivulets of cherry-bright blood.
That all changed with Caspar Morales. There had been plenty of books and films romanticizing vampires over the last century. It was only a matter of time before a vampire started romanticizing himself.
Crazy, romantic Caspar decided that unlike decades of ancient, hidebound vampires, he wouldn't kill his victims. He would seduce them, drink a little blood, and then move on, from city to city. By the time the old vampires caught up with him and ripped him to pieces, he'd already infected hundreds of people. And those new vampires, with no idea how to prevent the spread, infected thousands.
In America, they ended up shutting the vampires up in Coldtowns. Anyone infected was supposed to go to a Coldtown. If an infected person could keep from drinking human blood for eighty-eight days, the infection would flush out of their system. But few could do that. Tana's mother couldn't.
Tana ends up setting free Aidan and the vampire. But as they escape out the window, one of the vampires from the slaughter gets his teeth on her leg, so she may be infected, too.
Tana knows they need to get to Coldtown. The trouble is, no one who goes into Coldtown is allowed to come out, infected or uninfected. There's only one way out, and that's with a token you get for turning in a vampire. For some reason their vampire companion, Gavriel, wants to go into Coldtown. He says he has a friend he needs to kill. So Tana gets a token for bringing him with her. If she can keep from turning into a vampire, she'll be able to go home when it's all over.
This book is scary and compelling. The world is frighteningly believable. Vampires in Coldtown livestream their parties, and Tana meets some teens who have always wanted to go to Coldtown and become vampires. The life is glamorized, and the reader isn't surprised when it doesn't turn out as they hoped.
Along the way, Tana makes friends and allies and gets involved with Gavriel, who has some dark secrets. But worst of all, her little sister decides to come find her.
If you like vampire novels, you'll love this one. If you don't like vampire novels, like me, you just may find yourself loving it anyway. You certainly will have a hard time putting it down unfinished.