Reading level: Young Adult
E-book: 320 pages
Release date: August 30, 2011
Series: Anna #1
Reviewed by: Stéphanie
Source: Personal Shelf
Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story...
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder 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: move, 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, but now stained red and dripping 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.
And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.
Ghost stories aren’t usually my thing but I heard so many good things about ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD, I had to decide for myself. Now, after reading it, I know why Kendare Blake has so many people talking about her book. She knows how to write a good story and knows how to keep her readers interested. For a book about ghosts, it’s not necessarily horror but it does have enough magic and action to keep you engaged in the story all the way to the end.
The first scene reminded me of the TV show, Supernatural. It’s where we met Cas, the narrator, as he was driving a Camaro, on the hunt to pick up a ghostly hitchhiker. After his father died at the hand of a ghost, Cas became obsessed with avenging his father’s death by trying to kill as many ghosts as possible. I found Cas a little arrogant and smug, since he thought he was one of the only one that could hunt and kill ghosts. He did have the advantage of possessing an athame, a special knife that enable him to kill ghosts, but that alone shouldn’t make him the only or best ghost killer. But overall, I think his smugness was part of his quirky charm and I really enjoyed reading a YA novel with a male’s point of view. We read so many YA paranormal novels with female point of views so I found it refreshing to have a different outlook. Especially since having a male narrator means not getting pestered with annoying girly and teenage… touchy-feely stuff. Also, I loved Cas’s no-nonsense character. He might have been a little distant when it came to making friend but to him, killings ghosts was more important. I found he explained himself quite well when he said, “I guess I never give too much thought to the living.”
After the hitchhiker, Cas moved on to a bigger challenge, and we finally learn about Anna dressed in blood. Who is literally dressed in blood. If I had to describe Anna in one word, I would say Awesome! (A second word, however, would be bipolar). She's unlike any ghost I've ever read about and she scared me to death, at first. Unlike Cas, she wasn’t necessarily vengeful but had murderous tendencies because she was more or less grieving the loss of her life. I won’t reveal more about her because I don’t want to ruin Anna’s story but I do want to mention that the imagery used to describe Anna was absolutely wonderful.
Some of my favorite parts in the book were seeing the relationship between Thomas and Carmel develop (Cas’s friends and sidekicks). Thomas is more or less an awkward geek and Carmel is the prom queen socialite. The unlikeliness of this relationship happening in real life made it that much more enjoyable to read about. Thomas is also the comic relief in the story, while Carmel is more the voice of reason.
One thing’s for sure—Kendare Blake keeps you guessing until the very end of the book. She’s a great story-teller and she has me wanting to read more about Anna and Cas’s lives. I recommend this book to anyone who likes to read YA paranormal novels, and I’m not just saying that because Kendare Blake chose a Canadian city as the setting for her book. According to the author, only two books are planned for the series. The sequel, Girl of Nightmares, will be released August 7, 2012. It’s one of the summer releases that I definitively won’t miss!