The Coldest Touch by Isabel Sterling

The Coldest Touch is a tale of a vampire and a Death Oracle who are also just seventeen year olds trying to make peace with who they are. After her brother dies in an accident, Elise has a curse: whenever she touches someone, she sees their death. When Claire, a vampire masquerading as a high school student, turns up to help Elise master her powers on behalf of the mysterious Veil, Elise is at first sceptical, but things turn out to be more complicated, as she predicts her teacher’s violent death, and Elise must work out if she really trusts Claire.

Yes, this is a ‘vampire and a human fall for each other and meet in a high school setting’ novel, but it also knows it is one, making the odd Twilight joke and, even better, actually addressing the fact that the vampire, Claire, is stuck as a seventeen year old. In addition to that, it covers ideas of non-straight or non-cis vampires getting to exist in times that have different views than when they were human, and the complexity of a vampire wishing they were human but also liking now being in the modern age. The love story element of the book is woven into the plot, not the driving force behind why things are happening as the narrative is happening because of Elise’s powers, and that was satisfying if not what I expected from the cover which presents it as more of a vampire/mortal school romance rather than a tale of paranormal politics and navigating your own potential.

The book is told from both Claire and Elise’s points of view, which works well to both unfold the plot and show their characters whilst keeping the reader understanding what is going on. At first it took a little while to get into, but I found myself gripped by the story and the growing trust between Elise and Claire, and I was glad that it has a standalone narrative even though it feels like there could be more stories set in the world.

The Coldest Touch is a fun story that combines vampires, strange powers, a paranormal organisation, and two girls falling in love despite all this. It has the epic sense of vampire lore and history that is enjoyable in vampire book series, but also some interesting exploration of paranormal (both vampire and otherwise) existence in terms of purpose and self. I’d definitely read more about the queer vampires and their lives as taking the often more implicit sexuality and gender questions in vampire stories and considering the realities of that is very interesting.