Anna Dressed in Blood (Book #1)
by Kendare Blake
Release Date: August 30th, 2011
2011 TOR Teen
Hardcover Edition; 316 Pages
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Source: Review Copy from TOR
4.5 / 5 Stars
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life.
Anna Dressed in Blood took me completely by surprise, and I have to admit to staying up rather late in order to finish. Besides the fact that this was a ghost story, and I will usually drop anything to settle down and read a ghost story over any other type of novel out there, this novel also took place in Canada, my native country, and it was a combination I couldn't resist. With a beautifully written prose, intriguing and fun characters, and a storyline that I found delightful, there was a lot to admire in this novel, and I devoured it eagerly.
Cas is not your typical hero or main character, but I loved his sarcastic sense of humour and wit, and found myself chuckling endlessly over his insightful comments about the world around him. Not your usual teen, he inhabits a world full of ghosts and ghoulies, and after the death of his father, has inherited a power that makes him responsible for getting rid of the evil monsters that pester humans, using his trusty knife, the athame, he also inherited. Tracking ghosts has become a job for Cas, and he finds himself facing one of the worst when he moves to Thunder Bay, Ontario, and meets the local ghost known as Anna Dressed in Blood who is responsible for killing scores of people in the sixty years since her murder. As Cas becomes embroiled in the mess he creates, he comes to rely on some unusual friends to help him, and needs all the allies he can find to help him survive. I really enjoyed Cas's character development as he learned to rely on others and realized that he wasn't necessarily the arrogant, self-sufficient boy he thought he was. Cas's realization that he needed other people, not only for help defeating ghosts, but for love and companionship, was interesting to explore and I thought the author did a remarkable job in Cas's development.
I enjoyed the dichotomy of Anna's character as she revolved between evil Anna and nice Anna and wished the author had explored this aspect a bit more in this novel. To be honest, I think I liked the evil Anna better as the scenes involving her were fun, if spooky and dangerous. I couldn't quite understand the attraction Cas felt for Anna, but perhaps his constant living with ghosts made this unavoidable as he doesn't quite live in the land of the living, per se. Anna's changeable nature does make Cas doubt all the other ghost killings he has done, and perhaps this perspective is good for him and he won't be so quick to judge situations in the future. I have to give credit to Ms. Blake however, for making me feel sympathy for a ghost who has killed countless people, something I had to keep reminding myself throughout the novel; it definitely shows how skillful she is with words if she is capable of wringing such sympathy.
Ms. Blake's writing is certainly beautiful and it drew the reader into Cas's world, without ever letting go. The descriptive setting made me feel like I was there, although being able to picture a typical Canadian fall definitely made it help especially as I have been through that neck of the woods. The characters were fun without being stereotypical, and although some of the scenes were quite graphic, they were over rather quickly, and were not dwelled on for long. After some fantastic opening scenes, and great build-up for the first half of the novel, I felt somewhat of a let down during the second half as I expected a bit more of a scare in the second half than there was. It wasn't a great disappointment, just that I wanted something a bit more scarier and spookier and it wasn't there.
Anna Dressed in Blood was well worth the read and I enjoyed the novel tremendously. With some eerie and spooky moments, and characters that are fun and intriguing, this novel has an edge to it that is worth the time and effort. I am looking forward to Girl of Nightmares when it is released next year, and if you are looking for some thrills and chills, this one may be right up your alley.