Written by Kendare Blake
Published August, 2011 by Tor Teen
Genres: Ghosts, Horror
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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.
Anna Dressed in Blood just wasn’t the book for me. Sadly, I had been expecting more from this creepy ghost story. While Kendare Blake has a flair for the gruesome and can create some pretty eerie atmospheres, I wanted more development regarding the characters and their world.
After hearing so many rave reviews, I was eager to jump into the world of Cas and Anna Dressed in Blood. And embarrasingly, for some reason, I had forgotten that the main character was male until he mentioned his mother’s worry about having an only son (or something along those lines!) early on in the book. While this threw me for a moment, I quickly got a hold on things and began to experience the story through a male POV.
It’s inevitable that if you watch the show Supernatural, you’re going to draw similarities with this book. I was actually pleased to find the points they had in common, as I’m a fan of the show. The first scene with Cas and his hitch-hikier ghost was oodles of fun, and I got ready for a fantastically creepy read. We were promptly introduce to our main man and what he does; talk about kick-starting the action right away. Unfortunately, things started going downhill for me when the world-building aspect of Anna Dressed in Blood didn’t evolve, and I found that it severely lacked when compared to other YA books I really enjoyed.
While the scenes in Anna’s house were initially really creepy (I don’t get scared in books so I can’t say they were ‘scary’ – but there are a lot of body parts being torn, ripped, etc. so I think that classifies as creepy), as was Anna herself to begin with, this soon faded away as Cas began to introduce a new side of Anna to the reader. I felt that her certain brand of horror-allure was stripped when she was portrayed as being the sad, trapped ghost who wasn’t really controlling her body. The more Anna started to act like a human being, the more I began disliking where things were going.
The relationship between Cas and Anna was alright I suppose, but I didn’t really understand why Anna – who gruesomely killed everything in her path, even sleeping teens who sought shelter in her house – took a liking to Cas. While I can put that aside for the sake of some romance, even their interaction felt a little stunted to me. I’m not a fan of insta-love, and theres a little dashing of that in Anna Dressed in Blood. I don’t want to give anything away, but the ‘l’ word is thrown around despite the two main characters never really spending any quality time together.
I had also been hoping for something a little ‘more’ with Anna’s death. Sure it was sad, but it was a little unbelievable. At this point I have to say that I don’t think I’ll be picking up the sequel, Girl of Nightmares.
Anna Dressed in Blood is a book I’m sure many will love and there’s definitely a huge audience for this sort of book out there. While I do applaud emerging ‘horror’ YA, this book unfortunately wasn’t my thing. World-building and intricate character plots are something I hold dear when picking new favourites, and Anna is more direct and straight-to-the-point. It’s a quick read, so give it a shot if you’re curious.
Recommended to: Check it out if you haven’t read something like it before or are on the lookout for a creepy read.