Author: Kendare Blake
Genre: YA, PNR, Horror, Urban Fantasy, AWESOME
Publication Date: August 7, 2012 (TorTeen/Macmillan – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided review copy
Summary: It’s been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can’t move on.
His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live–not walk around half dead. He knows they’re right, but in Cas’s eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.
Now he’s seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he’s asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong…these aren’t just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears. Cas doesn’t know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn’t deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it’s time for him to return the favor.
☆: 5/5 stars – I’m SO bummed this is the last book!
Review: Man, after I got confirmation from Blake herself that this would indeed be the last book featuring Anna, Cas, and the gang, I was bummed out. Why? This is an AWESOME sequel, and I still want more. Blake has gone above and beyond the call of duty on this sequel, especially in the mystery-weaving, character-growing, and sensory language/imagery departments, so if you’re a fan of this duology, it’s a definite MUST READ. Warning, there might be a few spoilers in this review (it seriously can’t be helped when discussing this book), so beware.
I think one of the best things about this book is how much we’ve seen Cas grow as a character over these two books as a person. At first, he wouldn’t stick his neck out for others (except those he really, really trusted, which is a less than a handful), instead fixated on avenging his father. His own character journey over the course of these two books and making friends with Thomas, Carmel, and the others, as well as falling for Anna. Now he’s got his bffs, a stable home, and some peace that he’s sent the Obeahman off to his final reward…until he finds out he hasn’t on that last bit. Watching him interact with the new characters we meet in the second half of the book was an absolute joy (and filled with equal parts snark, hilarity, and terror) to behold. I love the way that Cas has really become a real boy, as have the rest of the characters. Carmel and Thomas also get their own little character arcs in this book, which was quite welcome indeed.
And while I’m bummed that Anna isn’t as huge a player as a main character in this book (she’s still there, but more as a background and a reason/motivation for Cas to figure out what the hell is going on in…hell), she still plays her part and really is a kick in the ass to motivate everyone to help save Cas from his hallucinations (or are they?) that are slowly driving him mad.
One thing that I wasn’t expecting but what I got was a recreation of Mt. Fuji’s famous suicide forest (just google it, guys) – a famously awful place where a whole lot of people go to off themselves every year. It’s filled with bodies – so much so that the Japanese police can’t really keep up. I’d known about the Mt. Fuji forest before, and it’s been in Japanese horror fiction (like Otsuichi’s “GOTH” – now available in English and definitely a must read), but what a surprise to see a recreation of it in American YA lit! And man, this recreation is absolutely amazing, sensory-wise, especially considering the, uh, shenanigans that happen within it. For me, that was definitely one of the highlights of the second half of the book.
The sensory experience in this one is so strong (and it feels like Blake has really, really upped her game in this one – though it should be said she wasn’t too shabby at all in this technical area in the first book), that there were times that I had to put the book down and walk away because I got dizzy or nauseous. Now that takes talent, and Blake has it in spades. For me to actually feel the sensory experience (even down to some of the nightmares that Cas experienced)? Seriously. Blake, you’re awesome, and I know that you’re only going to get better the more you write. You’re definitely a force to be reckoned with in all categories and this book only proves it.
We also meet new characters in this book and find out more about Cas’ paternal line and its entanglement with The Order, an ancient secret Druidic society of witches and warriors. While I definitely wanted more about this Society (maybe in a spinoff? Pleeeease?), I’m satisfied with what I got – considering half the book is devoted to it in one form or another and how it’s connected to Cas and Anna. I loved all of the rich development we got in all areas with these new characters and new sub-plot.
Final verdict? This is definitely one of the best of 2012, hands down, no contest and if you’re a fan of the first book, you simply must read this second book to get your end to the short saga that is the story of Anna and Cas. “Girl of Nightmares” is out now in North America through Tor Teen/Macmillan, so be sure to go and check it out as it really is worth the read!