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. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: 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.
Yet she spares Cas’s life.
I passed over this title a number of times in my collection, its first impression did little to excite me. Even after the first few pages, I just about put it down – the language and set up of the storyline felt cliché and overused. Quite possibly it took a beat for the author to warm up to her subject, because after that, I was gripped.
Kendare Blake has written a fun and captivating novel. Macabre – check! Horror- some, but definitely not scary. Suspense – not overly, but expertly kept the tension going right to the last page. Her writing style is pleasant making Anna Dressed in Blood an ultimately entertaining and easy read.
I was a little annoyed in the first few chapters at the repetition of “Anna Dressed in Blood,” like some sort of ominous omen. It destroyed the reverie of the book and instead had me rolling my eyes – reminding me of those ‘80’s horror flicks with the compare staring down the lens using a radio voice in attempts to make us shiver.
Told through Theseus Cassio Lowood’s point of view, who goes by Cas, a young male ghost hunter who travels from town to town eliminating restless spirits before they can add more hapless victims to their body count. He is a likable and sensible young man, and had me cheering for him in no time. His fixation with Anna Korlov, a powerful ghost came off a little weird, but I found I loved the dynamic. Kendare introduces most of the characters as fitting into a overdone stereotype, but then systematically destroys it leaving the cast as interesting and ultimately entertaining.
Granted the characters didn’t face that much difficulty outside of the storyline, abandoning the potential for the novel to become much darker through increasing the problems and anxiety they faced. The addition of parental (and grand-parental) involvement also had me cheering, adding credibility to the plight of Cas and Anna.
I was aware of the author’s voice at some points – inadvertently using language in an effort to sound like a teen. Plus I felt like she let circumstances explained off to easily. With so many unexplained deaths in the backstory, it felt a little too convenient. I felt raising the difficulty for Cas would have added some much needed suspense and intrigue.
Although being able to predict the direction of the book, I was unable to foresee the events which took it there, delighting me with surprises chapter after chapter. It also had the added benefit of having a double climax: just when you think the story is over and things are wrapping up Kendare reveals another set of problems. I know some readers are not a fan of this, but I welcome any break from traditional story telling. With a follow up novel, Girl of Nightmares, I am expecting much more and have already added in my reading pile.
Anna Dressed in Blood is not a horror, not a paranormal thriller, and not a romance, but elements of all three.
It was announced recently that Anna Dressed in Blood in currently under development for a screen adaptation by Stephenie Meyer’s company Fickle Fish, and I’m really excited in anticipation to see how it unravels on the big screen. What elements will they keep, will it be terrifying, or dark and comedic (along the lines of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) because it could certainly work either way. Needless to say I will be keeping an eye out for a trailer sometime next year.
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