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.
Hardcover, 316 pages
Published August 30th 2011 by Tor Teen
Four Stars: This is a chilling and thrilling read, perfect for Halloween!
Have you ever passed by a dilapidated house that just feels wrong? The paint is peeling, the yard overgrown and you get a prickling sensation that something is peering out at you through the grimy windows. You shiver and do what any rational person does, you hurriedly turn your back and slink away. Surreptitiously, you peek back over your shoulder to convince yourself that there is nothing ominous hiding in the inky, depths of that abandoned dwelling. You are a rational person after all; you convince yourself that the sinister things that slither in the dark and sneak into dreams at night are nothing more than symptoms of an overactive imagination. Ghosts, demons and other unimaginables belong only in books and movies right? Wrong! In steps Cas, a seventeen year old, ghost hunting extraordinaire, armed with his anthame, he purposefully seeks out these ill boding places and hunts down the murdering ghosts, that we all choose to conveniently ignore. After disposing of a lethal hitch hiker ghost, the fingers of destiny pull Cas to Thunder Bay, Canada. Here he must find and kill the murderous Anna Dressed in Blood. His journey is fraught with danger, drenched in horror and filled with numerous, unexpected developments. Will Cas be able to destroy this menacing girl dripping in blood?
What I Liked:
- Anna, this ghost is a complex creation. Cas hears the snippets and rumors that churn around the terrifying legend of Anna. She is a girl, who was murdered in her dress of white, on her way to a dance. Since her horrific death she has dwelt in her former home, killing all who cross the threshold. The tension and anxiety that the author builds toward that first encounter with Anna are almost palpable. At the initial meeting, Anna rises to the occasion. She is everything you expect; blood-tingling and tremendously scary. As the story progressed, I was shocked at the array of emotions that Anna evoked; from petrifying and haunting to anger, pity, sadness and eventually happiness. She is an extraordinary creation that manages to slip into your head and heart.
- The remaining cast of characters are well written and developed. I enjoyed having the story told by Cas, a male perspective. He is exceedingly courageous but somewhat tortured and lonely. I appreciated that he finally, though reluctantly, accepts help in his quest and ends up forming friendships with Carmel and Thomas. Carmel is a surprising and pleasant departure from the typical prom queen, popular girl stereotype. She is smart, caring and capable of wielding a mean aluminum bat in a pinch. I was drawn to Thomas, the shy, nerdy, rumpled, mind reading, witch. His persistence allows him to become a formidable ally to Cas. There is a hint for a potential romance in his future that I hope comes to pass.
- The writing and main story of the novel are superb. Ms. Blake skillfully submerges you into her world of macabre. There are plenty of shivering and chilling scenes that are not for the faint of heart. Her detailed and dramatic descriptions add to the overall ghostly ambience, while the haunting visions will slide around in your mind long after the lights are out. It will make you think twice before entering a cellar.
And The Not So Much:
- I was completely sucked into the main storyline, regarding the history and hunting of Anna. This vein builds to a climatic revelation that leaves you stunned. Then the story shifts to a secondary plot. At this point the book loses it's steam. I was not as interested in this second line. After the dramatic resolution of Anna's tale, the final ending was a bit of a let down.
- The romantic development is perplexing. I can't say much more without delving into spoilers. I am honestly not sure how to interpret the turn of events that led to the budding of a romance.
- Cas' mother, who is a practicing white witch, always brewing potions for protection and healing etc., is a fascinating character yet she was a tiny bit underdeveloped. I expected more from her character than the typical mothering behavior that was presented in the story. I also enjoyed the salty, aged Morfran but I wanted heaping doses of this voodoo practicing, old man's sage advice.
- This novel is marketed as a young adult book. I would recommend this for mature readers only. This story is loaded with gruesome material and adult language.
Anna Dressed in Blood is a tremendous achievement for a debut author. I look forward to many more future novels, including the sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood, from Kendare Blake. This is a book that will satiate your desire for a good, creepy, ghost story. This tale will slink in and haunt your dreams if you are not careful. My recommendation is to read it with the lights blazing!
"She's not quite here anymore; there's something missing in all her smiles, like a blurry spot or a camera lens out of focus."
"Shadowed places where things have gone wrong. Sinister places where things still are."
"As I look up, I can see the house, abandoned for years and beginning to tilt, just like a crouching, black shape in the dark."
"Imagination has a poor memory; it slinks away and goes blurry. Eyes remember for much longer.
Look for the sequel: Girl of Nightmares, August 7, 2012.