Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

book coverAnna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Release Date:August 30th 2011
Publisher: Tor Teen
Series: Anna Dressed in Blood #1
Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads description: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.

I was incredibly and pleasantly surprised by this book, so excuse me if I gush. I was expecting this book to take itself too seriously or be too ridiculous. Instead, I found it smart and intense. It was thrilling, and I couldn’t wait to finish it but I also wanted to make it last! Plus, the imagery made it very easy for me to picture everything, so I got the thrill of the author’s words and felt almost like I was watching a movie.

As it says in the description, Cas travels the country hunting and killing ghosts, continuing the work of his father. But not just any ghosts: ghosts that are violent and kill the living. These ghosts are usually victims of violence that can’t let go of the shock and transform  into something ugly and vindictive. Cas kills them with his special knife and moves on to the next spook. He and his mother have a well honed system for moving and for dealing with supernatural beings. Cas is also an expert at dealing with the living, he is adept at reading people. He knows how to make connections that are useful to him without creating lasting bonds. So when he moves to a new school, he knows who to seek out: the queen bee of the school. She always knows about parties and local spook stories. At Thunder Bay, this girl is Carmel. With Carmel and some jocks, he goes to check out Anna and her house of horror.

Anna is a force from the second she arrives after hearing stories about her. She is violent and full of rage but shockingly, she leaves Cas alive.  He describes her as “a ghost with the strength of a storm, black eyes, and pale hands, not a dead person at all but a dead goddess.” Cas realizes she’s different from all the other ghosts he’s met. He has to find out more about her death and learns more about the girl herself. But there is something a lot more sinister involved with this hunt!

I really enjoyed the characterizations and Cas was amazing. He was a very realistic teen guy character: his language, how he loved his mom and pretended to hated his mom’s cat. He was clever and likable, despite the fact that his life is filled with the dead and he harbors a secret need to avenge his father. And even though his part wasn’t huge, I really loved Tybalt, the cat. As a cat owner and lover, every part with Tybalt made me happy. Blake also writes a likable queen bee, making Carmel deeper than Cas ever expected even though the school revolves around her. And when Thomas the nerdy paranormal sidekick figure showed up, I didn’t expect to like him but I was once again pleasantly surprised.

And while Anna is a hauntingly lovely tale with a complex story and personality, Blake also includes some other memorable ghosts that I enjoyed. The other ghosts made Cas’s life as a ghost hunter seem more real to me, and I liked reading about past encounters with ghosts and the ones he happened upon in Thunder Bay (like the woman with stones for eyes). I was also surprised to be a little creeped out! I love scary movies and shows, but I’ve never really felt that chest-chilling sense of alarm from a book. It wasn’t too scary, but enough to make me wish I was reading it during the day time! And I was eying my cats suspiciously in case they were seeing things I couldn’t!

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that likes ghost stories. The second book in the series, Girl of Nightmares is expected to be published in 2012. It’s probably obvious but I’m beyond excited to see what’s next!

Check out Kendare’s website and twitter!


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