If you’ve read the story — or most other reviews (by people who do this stuff properly), you’ll know that the story starts when Tana — the main character — wakes in a bath after a party. It very quickly gets dark after that.
I’m no good at retelling stories so here are some piecemeal thoughts:
Things I especially loved:
- The Thorn of Istra — wonderful name — it instantly sounds like something magical and exciting, and attractive. It’s also a wonderful introduction to the character as a crazed murderer tearing a journalist’s throat out under a Parisian cemetery.
- Tana — I really liked Tana. She was brave and clever and well-meaning and she was broken, too, by her awful back story (which was brilliantly done as well). But despite all that, despite thinking she’d lost everything, it takes her a very long time to give up — and when she does it’s temporary. I like that she has an edge of recklessness, that she makes mistakes and does (really) stupid things, because everyone does stupid things and it’s nice to see that Tana isn’t punished for them (though why should she be? Maybe I’ve been reading too much Thomas Hardy).
- Gavriel — I seem to have a thing for broken characters (see above), and vulnerable men are one of my particular favourites (let’s not consider too closely what that says about me). Gavriel is so broken he’s struggling to hold on to sanity. Because he was trapped, he reminds me a little of Rath Roiben Rye, which is no bad thing.
- That kiss in the alleyway. And the declaration at the end.
I liked the idea of Coldtowns, too, and the history — both Tana’s personal history and the personalities of her parents, and the history of the world. I liked the idea of going Cold.
I’m vaguely uncomfortable with the trend — not just in this book but in others too — about vampire wannabes. So, I loved the crazy weirdness of the mall selling gothic dresses and awful t-shirts, and I liked Midnight’s blogging personality, but the kids who wanted to go to Coldtown were an awfully easy target, I think. And their desperation and, ultimately, rather pathetic obsession, never went away — they’re weird and treacherous characters and they have almost nothing to recommend them. I think I might have liked them to have something more positive about them. I guess the balance is Pearl, who runs to Coldtown to be with Tana and because she believes all the stuff she sees on TV.
Still, I loved the book. I loved the twist (I’d picked up the first one — as I’m sure I was meant to — almost at once, but I didn’t see the ultimate twist coming) and it means, of course, that I need to read the whole book again, to enjoy it from that perspective. And just to enjoy it again.
And I’ll get to see Holly Black when I go to World Fantasy Con in Brighton. Yey!