REVIEW: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
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.
Where do I even begin? Anna Dressed in Blood is unlike any book I’ve read, at least of those in the YA genre I am so fond of. I picked it up because the main character was named Cas. Why is that? Because Cas(tiel) is a character on a show I love, love, love, called Supernatural. That, and I love a good ghost story. To be honest, that’s all I thought this book was going to be: a good, entertaining ghost story. I was pleasantly surprised that it was so much more than that.
Cas is only seventeen but he’s had to grow up faster than any seventeen year old I’ve ever seen. He’s moved around his entire life, he’s been to dozens of schools in the past three years and has never really settled down. His mother is a white witch and his father is a dead ghost hunter. On top of all that, Cas has taken over the family business and hunts ghosts too. Soon Cas and his mum arrive in Thunder Bay, Ontario. (I was SO EXCITED to have a book take place in Canada, you have no idea.) Cas is in town to hunt and kill the ghost of Anna Korlov, also known as Anna Dressed in Blood. From the get go he knows that Anna is different.
Cas is very, very likeable. Even though he seems a little too-sure of himself sometimes, a little cocky and a little more than arrogant, he is good at what he does. He has a devil-may-care, recluse attitude and while at times it got a little grating, it’s realistic for him and his situation. His father died when he was seven years old. From then on it was his mother and him, all alone, traveling from town to down like gypsies. His mother loves him, and he loves her, but it was hard raising a son on her own. He’s more or less alone. He stays away from people because the way he sees it, he’s in town for the job alone and when he’s finished, he’ll be gone. There’s no sense in getting tied down with friendships that won’t last, people to care about that will forget him (and vise-versa) when he leaves town. It’s a lonely job, but he’s resolved in that fact. He feels that there is nothing else for him to do. That isn’t to say he doesn’t meet people along the way. He’s met people close to his situation, contacts to keep that give him tips and such, but he’s never really had friends. That is, he’s never really had friends until Thunder Bay.
Thunder Bay is different in every way. Soon, he meets Thomas, a mild telepath that quickly attaches himself to Cas’s side. There is also Carmel, the queen bee of the high school; popular, smart and of course beautiful. I loved them. Thomas is the geeky, shy sidekick who isn’t really all that brave but he swallows that and does what he has to do for his friends. Carmel also isn’t your average queen bee. She has more depth than the average queen bee, popular girl you see in a lot of books, shows and movies. As we get to know her more we see that she’s smart and quick to adjust to the insane, supernatural situation she got herself into.
Then there’s Anna. Oh, Anna. She’s supposed to be the villain. At first, we’re supposed to hate her, right? This ghost that slays everyone that comes into her home mercilessly. This murdered girl that is a malicious ghost. We quickly find out that she is so much more. She’s afraid. She’s alone. And above all, she doesn’t want to be doing what she does. Something happened to her, something so terrible that I was ready to throw my book across the room and scream WHY in the middle of the night and wake up everyone in my building. I loved her so much. I also loved the relationship that her and Cas have. It’s slow and steady at first. He doesn’t even realize the feelings that he has for this dead girl but he quickly becomes fiercely protective of her. I was really rooting for them.
Kendare’s writing was phenomenal. Absolutely beautiful. The imagery was so fantastic that you think you’re there. The atmosphere is perfect; spooky when it needs to be, absolutely dreadful and horrific when it needs to be and light when it needs to be. The prose is so rich that you’d think you were watching it on a screen or actually in the story. You’re so afraid that you have to take a moment to pause and repeat to yourself ‘it’s just a book, ghosts aren’t real, breathe, man.’ Fat lot of good that does. Anna Dressed In Blood will leave you on the edge of your seat. It will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The book gave me chills and made me turn on all the lights when all I had to do was go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The book is engrossing. It is unique and gripping and original. You’ll find yourself accidentally up until 5 in the morning because you have to know what’s coming next. (You will also be looking over your shoulder and wish the sun was up). I’ve never read a book that has gripped me this much. Anna has quickly become one of my favorite novels of all time. Everyone needs to read this book. If you’re looking for a spooky ghost story, read it. If you’re looking for a book about family, read it. If you’re looking for a book about what friends will do for each other, read it.