Romance (and scifi and fantasy) reading enthusiast, general lover of puppies and kitty kats, dark chocolate snatcher, writing playgirl, coffee luvah, chai latte chuggah, kidlet toting mama of one plus marriage credentials.
Really wanted to enjoy this one overall, but too much of it fell much too short. Tana's character arc has interesting potential due to the horrific happenings with her mother, but unfortunately this development is sacrificed in favor of actions on her part that failed to make sense or deepen her development in a meaningful way. Instead we have a typical, cardboard young adult character who makes frequent dumb decisions followed by more such, develops a romance with that must-have "mysterious" YA male character (which proceeds to add nothing meaningful to the story either), frequents the typical rave-style parties seen in every vampire story from here to kingdom come, and on and on. Her choices in the last third of the book (where she begins to show a slight flare of an attempt to lead the story as opposed to letting everything else lead her) start to become interesting, but it's unfortunately too little too late. She has her gutsy moments to be sure, but the typical aspects that have come to be hallmarks of YA reads won out, making her arc more boring and disappointing than anything.
Speaking of hallmarks, this book has crystal clear tones of inspiration from previous famous vampire works, and while it could be said these are homages, I found the similarities to be a drawback when I was hoping for a much more original story. Coldtowns, for example, are an intriguing concept and seemed to be the book's hook for that original material, but the book constantly falls back on vampire tropes and scenes that are overused at this point in fiction and TV (unless someone manages to just do those exceptionally well; it can be done, I just didn't see that here). The vampire Gavriel, for example, and his backstory (which of course directly affects his character development), is shown mainly through a series of flashbacks (so many of those in this book, way TOO many) in which he could've been Anne Rice's movie versions of Louis and Lestat all over again (some have mentioned similarities to Drusilla, Spike and Angel from Buffy fame). I kind of found these historical look-backs interesting, but after a while, I really wished these vampires had been more original. Gavriel is fascinated with Tana and it's a lot like watching Angel awaken to the pure glory in Buffy. If I wanted that - I'd go watch the originals because, frankly, they were much better developed in a quarter of a season of that TV show than Gavriel and Tana were in this book. Why they had a romance is beyond me. I couldn't see any chemistry between them.
Black's writing was a bit inconsistent for me. At times she uses very evocative writing that really fuses a scene into my mind and this is of course good. It engaged me when this happens. Other times, though, I'm jarred out of that when things are too obviously pointed out or we're reverted to one of those standard scenarios YA books seem to come with (the rave-style parties being an example again). There's not enough of a flow to the writing to keep me engaged on that level either. This is my first Holly Black book, so I'm curious to see if that more unique, evocative style I'd occasionally see prevails better in other books.
Overall, I took away that this book just isn't for me, but the reasons were fairly obvious to me, too. That being said, I did enjoy how it ended (the type where the reader is left to contemplate for themselves how things actually turned out for the protagonists - this felt like one of the more genuine parts of the entire story), and Black's writing had enough interest for me to possibly check out some other work. Great concept with this book, just not my cup with the execution.
Cover thoughts: LOVE it. Really eye-catching and very appropriate to the story.