Reading Holly Black’s “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” as a Writer

I woke this morning with the lights on in my room, the corner of a book pressing into my cheek, and surrounded by stuffed bunnies. There was a jar of Advil on the night stand, and I was utterly confused as to why it was so bright at seven a.m.

Rough night.

Turns out it was actually ten thirty. I’d left the bedside table lamp on last night when I’d fallen asleep several hours later than I normally would or should have. The book digging into my face was at least dog eared where I’d nodded off on it, and the relief that I hadn’t crushed my glasses while sleeping was second only to the fact that I didn’t have an actual hangover.

(I went out last night and had a few drinks, but it seems that I was so determined to continue reading Holly Black’s Coldest Girl in Coldtown that I took the book to bed with me and fell asleep in the process of cracking it open to the place I’d left off.)

That’s a love affair.

That’s the marker of a good story.


Coldtown, Cold Beer

Coldtown, Cold Beer – Reading “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” at Fiddler’s Green in Montreal with a pint of Bass


When I was younger, I binge read. In between graduation and finding a job, I devoured several urban fantasy and horror series from the couch in the basement with little regard for how much time I was spending destroying my vision (at the time, I didn’t yet have glasses.) That year I read upwards of 200 books, without concern for how it impacted my social life. I was too caught up. Too in lust. Too busy charging my brain with the catalyst that would eventually prompt me to try writing for the first time — was worth it.

I remember I slept irregular hours, I didn’t say much to my folks, and I didn’t move an awful lot between my couch and my bed, but it was a good time. These days I regrettably don’t have the bandwidth to do that sort of thing anymore. I have a job, I freelance as a graphic designer, I try to write regularly, and spend time with my family and friends. Daily reading is a necessary factor in keeping my brain juices squirting inspiration to feed the muse, but it’s a two percent allocation of my day rather than two hundred.

Kinda sad.

In any case, the happy part is that once in a while I find myself completely enraptured all over again, and I can’t help myself: I get sucked into the world and I forget about everyday responsibilities for a little bit.

Coldtown is making that happen for me.

Holly Black's "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown"

Holly Black’s “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown”


You have to figure that reading is at least part research: as a writer, I’m curious to see what drives a successful story. As I read, I like to take notes — this is usually facilitated by using iBooks on the iPad (since you can highlight or make notes right in the text that are easily referenced from the Table of Contents later. If I’ve made the bookshelf space sacrifice of buying an actual, physical book, I rely on my note book and a bunch of post-its. That’s rare, these days. My shelf space is at a premium.) I try to distill these notes from the parts that stand out into a “bigger picture” with elements that can be understood with respects to its parts.

For me, Coldtown has the following:

  • A compelling protagonist (Tana) who feels real and responds to the action credibly
  • A convincing crisis
  • A great wrench thrown in to the plot to keep things interesting at the midway point
  • A supporting love interest (Gavriel) with an equally compelling backstory (that makes me think of Interview with the Vampire, which is interesting given that I haven’t seen many gothic tropes like this in YA fiction)

It’s a little heavy on the world building, and in some cases it drops into redundancy, but this rarely slows down the storytelling.

I’m worried for Tana and her friends, and that prompts me to pick up the book again.

Have you read The Coldest Girl in Coldtown? What did you like about it?

Showing 5 comments
  • Aniqa Khan

    I loved the story and the writing in this book. After reading Maggie Stiefvater The Raven Cycle I’ve been in a bit of a funk where all other books seemed rubbish in comparison. This got me out of it and that’s saying something as I’m currently happily stuck in the phase of reading upwards of 200 books a year and tending to forget the world while I’m at it.

    • Kira Butler

      Holly Black has a real knack for setting up a sense of urgency in her books, AND she writes diverse characters. Honestly, how often do you come across such varied supporting casts? Trans characters, gay characters… And topics like drug use — even if its a fey derived substance? (If you haven’t read Tithe and Ironside, you must do so right now!)

  • Reply

    From the blog archives: Reading Holly Black’s “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” as a Write

  • Kira Butler (@kirabutler)

    From the blog archives: Reading Holly Black’s “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” as a Writer

  • Kira Butler (@kirabutler)

    From the blog archives: Reading Holly Black’s “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” as a Writer

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