The Poison Eaters by Holly Black [P1]
Hey guys! Here’s another book I picked up at the library~
The Poison Eaters and Other Stories is a compilation of short stories by Holly Black. I decided to pick this book up because Holly Black is currently one of my favorite authors. I’ve read The Darkest Part of the Forest, The Iron Trial, and part of The Spiderwick Chronicles. Not too many of her books but I’d say enough for me to say I really enjoy her writing style and stories. I especially like how complete the stories feel, which is why I was pretty excited to pick up this short story collection.
The stories contained here are The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, A Reversal of Fortune, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, The Night Market, The Dog King, Virgin, In Vodka Veritas, The Caat of Stars, Paper Cuts Scissors, Going Ironside, The Land of Heart’s Desire, and The Poison Eaters. Instead of doing a review on the stories as a whole, I thought I’d give my thoughts on each story I read.
That’s not to say I won’t give my thoughts on the book as a whole. I plan to do so but I’d also like to make comments on each story.
For now I’d like to talk about The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and A Reversal of Fortune.
So I know there’s a 400 page novel called The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, however, this short story is slightly different from the description of the novel. This story is about a girl named Matilda who has just been bitten. Running away, she spends her last remaining hours attached to the bottle. According to her, it keeps her from losing her head, from wanting to pierce the skin of humans, and from crossing the line of no return.
She believes she can hold on and refuses to be helped, however, this all comes to a stop when she finds out that her friend Lydia and her boyfriend have run away. According to Lydia’s brother (and her blog), she’s looking to get bitten and the best place for this is Coldtown, which is where vampires officially reside.
As an introduction to this vampire world, I think this short story was great! One of the things I really enjoyed about this was the fact that Vampires are an accepted part of society. There are obviously humans that fear them (like the two perverts at the beginning of the story) but also others that place them on pedestals (Lydia and the humans Matilda houses with). The idea that there’s a camp/city of Vampires that everyone can enter but that nobody can leave, unless certain conditions are met, is rather frightening. Especially when meeting those conditions is near impossible.
One of the characters also mentions that the guards of Coldtown will sometimes try to trick the new Vampires into going out in daylight, with the implied threat of death (or a grave injury). It’s kind of like, even within their own city, Vampires need to be on their guard.
I also really enjoyed the way that Matilda as a Vampire was portrayed. There’s a sense of ‘human’ in her as she doesn’t like the fact that she’s become a murderer but also a more ‘monster-like’ quality where even after killing someone, Matilda will feed again and even torture her own friend. She seems to sit along that line of the ruthless Vampire and the Vampire trying to fit into human society.
The ending really blew me away, especially considering Matilda had been human just a few hours beforehand.
For eighty-eight days you are going to watch someone sweat out the infection. You are going to watch her beg and scream and cry. You’re going to watch her throw up food and piss her pants and pass out. You’re going to watch me feed her can after can of creamed corn. It’s not going to be pretty.
A Reversal of Fortune
This short story is more in line to what I consider a short story. In the case of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, there is a possibility of further development. There are things that can be explored, like, what happens during those 88 days that Lydia is going to be changing? Will she still be haughty and consider Vampires the dominate race, the ideal? Will Lydia’s brother just be fine with the way things are? What about the little groupies that Matilda is rooming with, will they be turned eventually? What kind of reaction will this broadcast bring about? Etc.
A Reversal of Fortune, though, is about a girl named Nikki who ends up making a deal with the devil after she finds out her dog is facing a life and death situation. It feels very complete in the sense that there’s a problem and by the end of it the problem is solved. Nikki faces off with the devil in an eating contest and through some wit she outsmarts him at his own game. Just as the devil leaves, her mom comes home with her dog being fine.
It’s also less fantasy-like, which is something I was initially skeptical about. I’m a big fantasy fan and not so much a slice of life fan but this combined both genres well. While not much to say about this, I will mention that it was an enjoyable read and that I really liked the way Nikki outsmarted the devil.
It was such a simple trick I laughed out loud and face palmed.
“What are you doing?” Doug shouted.
“Just making room,” the devil said. Pressing the blade to his belly, he slit a line in his stomach. Dozens upon dozens of gooey half-chewed frogs tumbled into the dirt.
Nikki stared at him, paralyzed with dread.
Overall, I’m really enjoying the book and I’m definitely finishing the rest 😀
This book will be categorized under Young Adult.