Author: Kendare Blake
Genre: YA, horror, urban fantasy, paranormal
Publication Date: August 30, 2011
Summary: 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.
☆: 4.5/5 stars – an excellent tale reminiscent of “Supernatural”!
Review: Oh man, that ending. Sign me up for book 2. “Anna Dressed In Blood” reminds me a lot of “Supernatural” – except with a younger (only child) protagonist and a kick-ass antagonist and an ending that definitely won’t leave you alone. If you’re not cool with gore or scary stuff, this may not be the book for you as Blake holds nothing back in her excellent abilities in the sensory language and imagery department. However, I loved this one, and it’s definitely on my list for best of 2012 so far.
What the most wonderful thing about this book is the fact that Blake has no fear whatsoever in torturing her darlings in order to get what she wants from them – and nowhere is this more obvious than the case of poor Anna. However, even though she does torture her darlings (and frequently), she also gives them tools with the power to fight back – which is one thing that also makes this book so unique. It seemed no matter what Blake did to make the situation worse, her characters were able to deal with it in a credible (even with the fantastic and phantasmagoria as subject matter) way. Her world is very stably and tightly built, and I found no areas where I found things weak or insufficient – Blake is also really great at worldbuilding, as well as her character construction and arcs. While I did want a little more on Will (especially when it comes to the last third of the book), but over all I’m very satisfied with what I got.
As I said before, Blake’s use of sensory language and imagery was so impressive that there were points where I had to put the book down, walk away and digest (no pun intended) what was going on. I’m a fan of gore in my books, especially in YA, and Blake definitely didn’t hold back there – so I hope more YA authors also get the courage to put a bit more gore in their horror novels. But it wasn’t just the gore that was finely done – I could feel Anna’s hair, hear the drip of the blood from her dress, feel the smoky ghosts and taste the incense and oil from Cas’s mom. I love it when I can fully immerse myself in a world with no distractions and Blake definitely writes one great world from the sensory angle – definitely one of the best YA debuts in the sensory department of the last two years.
Blake also brings in the classic gothic genre angle to this concerning how she structured Anna’s story and Thunder Bay, which was also wonderful as it’s rare to find a good modern gothic genre novel. The supernatural angles are richly diverse with some I’ve never even heard of before (the cousin of Voodoo, for example) which made for an even better reading experience.
I also loved the fact that I saw nothing about this book (except for maybe the romance element – I had the feeling it might happen, and it did) coming. The twists and turns truly surprised me, and in a good way. I love it when the author can do that as very little in YA feels that surprising or original anymore, and for a debut this was really well done. I love it when the author can hit me over the head with their plot twists and make me love them even more for doing so, and Blake does this all in spades. And when I was done? I wanted to reread it again. That’s an uncommon feeling for me, and it was one I was glad to experience by the end of the book. I definitely want more of this world, stat.
Final verdict? This is a must read. It’s dark, it’s romantic, it’s gory and it definitely has something for everyone of all ages and both genders. “Anna Dressed in Blood” is out now from Tor/Macmillan in North America, and the sequel, “Girl of Nightmares” will be out in August. I know I can’t wait. This is one debut you just can’t miss!