Anna Dressed in Blood
by Kendare Blake
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 not stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed and and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian house she used to call home.
But she, for whatever reason, spares his life.
So ever since I watched The Sixth Sense back when it was first released and had nightmares for two weeks, I have tended to avoid ghosts. But then Supernatural came along and I fell in love with the series so I decided to give ghosts a try again. And now there is Anna Dressed in Blood and I am hooked on ghosts! And they who hunt them, of course 😉
Theseus Cassio Lowood – Cas for short – has taken up the family job of hunting ghosts. Just him and mother, they move from town to town hunting ghosts who are killing. Ghost serial killers, really. After being tipped off to a ghost in Thunder Bay, ON (yay Canada!) called Anna Dressed in Blood who haunts her old house and violently kills (read: rips apart) anyone who steps foot inside. Cas takes the tip and it’s not too long after settling in to his school in Thunder Bay that crap hits the fan. Cas is immediately dragged in to the mystery of Anna Dressed in Blood after she brutally kills a fellow student and yet leaves Cas alive. It-girl Carmel and magic-talented Thomas – and his grandfather Morfran – join Cas as he tries to figure out Anna, why she spared his life and why this ghost hunt is so different from all his others.
I actually really enjoyed Cas’ character. At the beginning, he’s a bit of an arrogant I-can-do-anything teenager who you kind of want to hate for being so good at everything but Anna is a bad-ass ghost and knocks him down a few pegs. Once he realizes Anna is a bit more than he can handle on his own, and that Carmel and Thomas are not going to go away, Cas does some quick maturing. I think he starts to understand that just because he has the athame that kills ghosts doesn’t mean he has to go through life alone with just his mother and cat for company and support. Cas is a strong main character with imperfections, emotions and a will to succeed – very much a teenage boy, albeit one who hunts ghosts. Carmel and Thomas are amazing secondary characters and I have so much love for them. Kind of geeky Thomas and most popular girl in school Carmel just work so well together that I just wanted to lock them in a basement until hooked up. Cutest couple ever, hands down, and they compliment each other so well. Heck, they compliment Cas! Cas is the one that just wants to jump right in and kill ghosts immediately, while Carmel and Thomas are the more cautious but yet still fierce duo. Thomas has the magic aspect and Carmel has confidence and connections galore.
And while I think Carmel and Thomas are meant to be, I wasn’t so sold on the Cas/Anna romance aspect of this gory and creepy ghost story. I don’t know if I just didn’t connect enough with Anna, but I don’t see the draw for Thomas. Yes, she has that uber creepy all dripping blood and dark eyes and the ripping people apart until she’s with Cas and then she is presumably very similar to when she was alive thing going on, but still. I almost feel like Cas was just so lonely before, had no one who really understood him, and was so caught up in the ghost goings-on around him that he just went for it, you know? But maybe others will see something there that I didn’t. But where I didn’t see her good side and the romance, Anna Dressed in Blood as a scary ghost? Amazing. So good! Kendare Blake does not shy away from the ghostly death and dismemberment. No half-done descriptions of shadowy figures in this book. We get the ghosts with all their dripping blood, missing parts and grotesque figures.
Anna Dressed in Blood is a great book for people like me who want spooky and creepy without being scared our of their wits. Characterization and language is engaging and keeps you wrapped up in the mystery – cause you know there’s more to the Anna case than just a ghost who kills people that invade her home. Kendare Blake’s debut is a ghost story that drags you inside and keeps you reading long into the night – perfect atmosphere for a story that tries to scare you. But it’s the character interactions and action parts amongst the scary that keep the book really interesting – who knew there could be so much life in a ghost story!
Hardcover copy provided by Tor Teen in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!