Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Publisher: Tor Teen
Pub. Date: August 30th, 2011
Series: Anna, #1
Age Level: 14/15+
Source: For review from publisher.
Synopsis via Goodreads
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.
With its eerie atmosphere and suspenseful story line, Anna Dressed in Blood is the perfect book to delve into when looking for something haunting but not horrifying, not to mention a stunning debut overall from Kendare Blake.
Cas was a lovable male protagonist that I really enjoyed getting to read from the point of view of. His dry, witty humor and strength of charcter really appealed to me and I thought he developed quite well throughout the story as far as knowing what he wanted and learning that some things aren't what he thought. Like Anna. Speaking of Anna, she was a breath of fresh air as far as characters go. She was scary and horrible on the outside, but inside she was just a girl who died too young and was trapped living as someone she didn't want to be. Anna had significant depth as a character and I grew to absolutely adore and admire her as I progressed further along in the book. Some other great characters included Thomas, Carmel, and Cas's mom.
As many paranormal books as I've read, very few have contained, or been focused upon, ghosts. This has always saddened me so when I came across Anna Dressed in Blood, I was really hopeful. Thankfully it fulfilled my expectations and proved to be suspenseful, creative, and thoroughly captivating from beginning to end. The story read fairly quickly but was also well paced and took the necessary time to grow and develop. The setting of Thunder Bay was adequately suited to the story, being both very well built and imagined. (I feel like one of the things that some books are lacking these days is solid world building.) There was also plenty of action to satisfy my craving while not over-running the story with it.
Blake's writing style was beautiful and did a thorough job creating an eerie and haunting tone all throughout the story. The words flowed seamlessly across the pages and I was left mesmerized by her skilled use of imagery. Blake also weaved in a fine blend of dry humor that contributed to the overall likability. The first person perspective was a wise choice and allowed me to delve deeply inside Cas's head and understand his character.
The ending of Anna Dressed in Blood was bittersweet and a bit cliffhanger-ish but I thought it was a great way to tie up this part of the story and I can't think of any way I'd have changed it if I could as it's definitely left me on tenterhooks waiting for the next installment.
All in all, Anna Dressed in Blood is an impressive and imaginative debut that I thoroughly enjoyed. I've never been a huge fan of horror (serious understatement) and I feel like Blake has provided me with a book that does a more than adequate job of easing me into the horror genre without throwing me in all at once. I can easily see myself reading Anna Dressed in Blood again later on down the road and I can't wait for the sequel. I definitely recommend this book and must say that Kendare Blake is an author to watch. That is, not in the creepy stalker way but in the, "Oh look, Blake has a new book," way. Naturally.
1st in Series: B+
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