Yash and Janet’s Fanmix for The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Coldest Girl in Coldtown fanmix collage

By Yash! Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

The Book Wars’ first ever fanmix! Woo!

The songs can be found here, and our rationale for why these songs remind us of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black is as follows.

Isle of the Dead by Sergei Rachmaninov

This Russian composer was (possibly) alive during Gavriel’s pre-vampire days! Rachmaninov was born in 1873 and died in 1943.

When Gavriel was young, Russia was nearing the end of her Golden Age. Revolution was coming, but the aristocracy pretended otherwise, swilling champagne and speaking in perfectly accented French in their gilt parlors. The books of the day gloried in the nobility of suicide, willful decay, and romantic melancholy. (p. 160)

Gavriel (Gavriil) was 20 when Events Happened, so he was born around around the same time as Rachmaninov and was very likely a vampire by the time Rachmaninov was well known.* Isle of the Dead (Op. 29) was finished in 1908. Hugely atmospheric, ominous, and eerie, this song sets the stage for Coldtown, all the more perfectly because the two narratives begin with death: the main story, Tana’s, begins with her waking up in a bathtub to find that (almost) everyone else in the house has been killed; Gavriel’s despair begins when he kills his brother and his fiancee kills herself. Also, Coldtowns themselves are kind of isles of the dead, because they are isolated (albeit by walls and guards) and the inhabitants cannot leave; they are doomed to die (humans) and remain apart from the living (vampires).

Battle and Transformation Scene from The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Another extraordinary Russian composer, Tchaikovsky’s life didn’t overlap all that much with Gavriel’s (1840-1893), although both experienced a series of personal crises and depression.

Please note, the ballet Nutcracker is rather different from the short story by E. T. A. Hoffmann. Even the name of the protagonist is different: in the ballet, she is Clara; in the short story, she is Marie and has a doll named Clara. Either way, though, the central figure is a young girl who goes on a marvellous adventure because she has the courage and compassion to save the Nutcracker. The Nutcracker is under a spell and unable to save himself. In the short story, he loses heart and believes himself unable to defeat the Mouse King, by whom he is menaced. It is Marie’s courage and her willingness to sacrifice her dearest possessions to ensure his safety that enable the Nutcracker to face and defeat the Mouse King. Not quite Gavriel’s position, but subtle parallels are there. The short story contains a (relatively long) story of how the Nutcracker became the Nutcracker instead of the nice young man he used to be, much as Gavriel’s past is related in Coldtown. Marie, like Tana, keeps the secrets she needs to keep.

In the ballet, everything is delightful after the defeat of the Mouse King – in fact, quite a lot happens as the prince shows Clara his realm. In the short story, Marie wakes up, is thought to have been fevered (*cough Tana goes Cold*), and after many unrelated adventures during which she grows up from a seven year old to a marriageable young lady, she breaks the spell on the Nutcracker by declaring that she would love him and be faithful, no matter what he looked like. (As a Nutcracker, he is rather ugly and described in semi-monstrous terms.) He shortly thereafter shows up at her house and swears to love her, etc. Tana, meanwhile, drops Gav off in Coldtown and goes on her own quests. He, like the Nutcracker boy, returns at the end to swear love, etc.

But really we included this because it is an awesome piece of music and because she (Tana/Marie/Clara) has this long, crazy, terrifying, and sometimes wonderful adventure which begins with her taking pity on and saving a monstrous someone that no one else defends. (We’re leaving Herr Drosselmeier out of it, for now.)

Finale from Swan Lake by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Main story of the ballet? Thoughtless prince meets girl under an evil enchantment (swan form) which can only be broken by true and unwavering love. The ending? Aha! Ambiguous. Basically, every production does the ending somewhat differently. Some have the lovers victorious and alive while their enemy the enchanter dies; some have everyone die and the lovers rise to heaven together; some have the lovers commit suicide together, at which the girl’s sisters (more enchanted swan girls!) together destroy the enchanter; some have the enchanter triumph; some have the prince and the enchanter destroy each other so that the girl is left to mourn over the prince’s corpse; some have the enchanter destroy the prince; and in some the other swan-girls rebel against the enchanter, killing him and allowing the lovers to have their happily ever after.

Love that ambiguity! And it fits the end of Coldtown just right. (Holly Black, if you ever read this, we love how the story has a sense of resolution without closing off and sealing the characters’ fates. Thank you for that marvellous ending!) Also, please note themes of transformation, of monstrosity, of disguise, of doubles (our female lead, Odette, and the enchanter’s evil daughter, Odile; consider how Tana feels that she has replaced Elisabet; also, consider jealous Midnight), of sisterhood (swans! Tana and Pearl, also Tana and Pauline and Valentina). Tchaikovsky’s music has that lovely shadowy feeling which sways between dire peril and sublime beauty, and is utterly moving.

Sunset Boulevard from Sunset Boulevard (the musical) 

THE song for Coldtowns, for corruption wearing a seductive mask, for giving in, for giving up and becoming the enemy, for selfishness and self-loathing and a teeny bit of hope. And also, if you know what happens to the character who sings this song, a taste of impending doom. NOTE FROM YASH: Also, the song has this sort of self-aware sense of drama (partly because it is a stage play), which I think applies to this world of diseased/dying/desperate people who delight in seeing and being seen.

Demons by Imagine Dragons

Themes of monstrousness. Need we say more?

Well, if you insist. “When the days are cold / And the cards all fold / And the saints we see / Are all made of gold” –So, corruption in a cruel Cold world, a la Lucien Moreau.

“When your dreams all fail / And the ones we hail / Are the worst of all / And the blood’s run stale”–Think of Midnight and her plans. May we digress and mention how HORRIBLE Midnight is? She is utterly selfish, human and vampire. She is so determined to be special, to ‘live the life’ (er, die the death?) that she kills her brother, first legally, then physically. She is disgusting.

“I wanna hide the truth / I wanna shelter you / But with the beast inside / There’s nowhere we can hide // No matter what we breed / We still are made of greed / This is my kingdom come / This is my kingdom come”. So. Tana wants to protect Pearl. Isn’t that her goal all along? She has other motives, of course, but the main one, the reason she doesn’t go down into her basement as her mother had done, is because she won’t endanger her sister like that. She won’t endanger her best friend, Pauline, like that. Tana has a plan to keep the people she loves safe, no matter how greedy thirsty she becomes.

“When you feel my heat” (all those lines about body warmth and heat and warm blood) “Look into my eyes” (and about red eyes)? It’s almost like this song was written for Coldtown and the sense of destiny (er, doom?) that Tana feels, because of her mother, and Gavriel feels, because of his lineage, eyes, mouth.

Blank Space by Taylor Swift

Tana and Aiden, anyone? The mess that was their relationship. The “long list of ex-lovers” belongs to Aiden. “They’ll tell you I’m insane” works for Tana and for Gavriel. Also, of course, the dangerous new relationship forming between Tana and Gavriel.

Really, this song is in because of the mention of “a nasty scar.” But “drunk on jealousy” works for Midnight, and maybe for Lucien, and the “nightmare dressed like a daydream” describes all of Lucien’s vampires, most especially him and Elisabet. Finally, mention of “going down in flames” (vampires in Suicide Square) and “boys only want love if it’s torture” (seems to fit both Aiden and Gavriel) make this song a fit.

Sound of Your Heart by Shawn Hook

Basically, pain, pain, pain. And also missing someone’s heartbeat. Which means this works for Gavriel when Tana isn’t around, and for every human who has lost somebody they loved to the vampires (either through draining or Turning), and for vampires who miss someone, human or otherwise.

Weight of Living (Part 1)  by Bastille

Because Tana and Gavriel (and other characters, but these two most of all) carry burdens of grief and guilt, and they learn to bear – or release? – them.

Gimme All Your Love by Alabama Shakes

For Valentina and Jameson. Can we talk about how truly lovely these two are? Valentina risks her life (ALMOST DIES) because she goes into the pit of danger to rescue the girl she believes Jameson loves. No petty rivalry here! Jameson (who rescues strays and sees Valentina as an ally in this) hates vampires and has a difficult relationship with his mother, but he would have walked into Lucien Moreau’s lair for Valentina.

What I Wouldn’t Do by Serena Ryder

This song we saved for last, because for all the theme of monstrousness in Coldtown, there is also and equally strongly the theme of love, a love that binds people together, a love so strong that each partner makes sacrifices for the other. This song speaks of that love, which manifests in many ways between the characters. Most obviously, there is the love Tana has for Pearl, and then for Pauline, Valentina, and Gavriel. Maybe even, to a lesser degree, for Aiden. There is the love that Gavriel has for Tana, and the love between Valentina and Jameson. There is the love Pearl has in turn for Tana, that Pauline, Valentina (etc.) have for Tana as well. This song could be sung by sisters, by friends, by lovers; and in Coldtown, it is.

“If you should fall to pieces / you know I’ll pick them up” –> Tana and Gavriel. (And Tana & Pearl & Pauline.) Valentina and Jameson.

“If you should leave this country / you know I’ll come to you / because you always love me” –> Tana and Pearl (and Pauline).

“I’ll carry the weight / I’ll do anything for you. / My bones may break / But I’ll never be untrue” –> Tana and Pearl, Tana and Gavriel (for him, literally), Valentina and Jameson.

“You have made me listen careful / and you gave me the light” –> Tana and Pearl (remember how they text back and forth, speaking almost in a code that only they shared?), Tana and Gavriel (his riddles, her rescuing).

Hope you enjoy listening!


Lacrimosa by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is wonderful. We couldn’t quite fit it in (despite the sorrow and grief of, well, lachrimosa) but definitely worth listening to. Doesn’t it sound like a great mournful dance?

*This is an estimate based on the beginning of chapter 28:

Vienna in 1912 was very different from Paris a mere twenty years before. (p. 284)

1912 – 20 = 1892. So Gavriel was in Paris with Lucien (and Elisabet?) around 1892. Gavriel went to Paris when he was 20 or shortly after (he was 20 when he fell in love; p. 161). There’s no saying how long Gavriel courted Roza, or how long he lived in Paris before Lucien Turned him, or how long they stayed in the city afterwards. I’d guess less than a year for the former two, and at least a decade for the latter. So Gavriel might have been born in the 1860s or even the 1850s, but no later than the early 1870s.


[Edit by Janet April 4, 2016: Aaaaand let us not forget the one song referenced in Coldtown:

Gavriel locked the blood off his knife, his tongue sweeping to the tip of the blade. “I want to watch both your ashes blow away across the face of a bloodred moon.” He sang the next bit, his voice swelling with madness. “By the light, by the light, by the light of the bloodred moon. I’ll be killing you soon. Do you remember that song? I’ve changed the words a little.” (p. 278)

“By the light of the silvery moon” by Gus Edwards and Edward Madden was first published in 1909. Here are Ada Jones‘s rendition (1910), Doris Day and Gordon MacRae‘s film version (1953),  Etta James‘s bold jazz (1957), and Julie Andrews‘s take (1972).]

3 responses to “Yash and Janet’s Fanmix for The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

    • I feel like we sorta spoiled this for you, but I REALLY HOPE YOU READ IT! And let me know what you thought when you do! :)

  1. Pingback: Days Like These – Warlock-In-Training·

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