Author: Kendare Blake
Publisher: Tom Doherty
Publication date: October 17, 2011
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
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.
Paranormal reads are not my thing. I don't like being scared, especially since I have an extremely wild imagination, so I surprised myself when I got myself a copy of this clearly-it-looks-paranormal book. I had read many good reviews of this book on Goodreads, so I decided to give it a chance. I think I made the right choice because I loved it.
First, reading from a boy's point of view was like a breath of fresh air. Most of the books I read are from the girl's point of view, and that can get a bit annoying at times. Cas Lowood was a strong edge to this book, with his confidence and calmness that shone through the pages. I liked that the story was driven by this character's dark (if I'd say so myself) motives. Cas appeared threatening and strong, but he still showed a side of him that feared the things we all find dangerous. He might have been a "Ghostbuster", but he proved he was still human.
Second, it was completely full of action and thrill. There was no scene that felt unnecessary. All scenes moved the story forward, while still maintaining a good dose of humor and wit. At times, though, it felt like it moved too conveniently. I wished there'd been more challenges for the characters, but I understood that the story needed to be pushed forward, with the many things that had to happen in such a short period of time.
Third, the story's originality blew me away. Ghost-killing boy meets (and falls in love with) a pretty terrifying ghost? Say whaaaat? I had never heard of something like that, and that alone intrigued me. I wondered how they were going to do it, and if they would manage to pull it off. I questioned it many times, actually, because the thought of a ghost and this boy being in a relationship just felt a bit off to me, but in the end, they solved it. I wasn't excited for the romance aspect, but it was the only thing that I didn't quite like about this novel.
Fourth, the writing was brilliant. Round of applause to you, Kendare Blake.
And finally, fifth, the characters. They were all so interesting and unique. No one was boring and they all helped the story progress. The characters also changed throughout the story, and their development was something I greatly admired. Good character development isn't easy to come by.
Anna Dressed in Blood is disturbing and violent, but that was what I liked most about it -- that it did not hold back. I've just gotten tired of Young Adult books holding back on creating vivid imagery, I guess. But what else can you expect from a paranormal book, really? Bunnies and rainbows? The gore in this book was enough to disgust me, which was surprisingly a good thing! It added to the book's overall effect.
I'd recommend this to lovers of YA paranormal, especially fans of the Mara Dyer series. It's not too scary to keep you up at night, but it's not the cheesy kind of paranormal, either. Be warned, though, that things get violent pretty quick and they're frequent. But aside from being a paranormal book, the story alone is enough to grip you.