Thursday, January 5, 2012

Anna Dressed in Blood

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.

I didn't know how I would feel about this one.  On the one hand, it had been receiving a lot of really positive reviews.  And the cover is absolutely and completely stunning (also a perfect depiction of Anna and her house).  But this is definitely not my usual genre, and I tend to be slightly mistrustful of the really gorgeous covers because they often conceal shoddy books.

I loved this.

I wasn't sure at first.  I think it's because I was so surprised.  The book seemed almost . . . chatty.  That was definitely not what I had been expecting.  I'd been expecting dark, gritty, haunting. I was thrown off.

But this is one of those books that just gets progressively better and better and when you finally finish the book you just sort of clutch it to your chest and ignore all the pointed stares aimed in your direction.

Like I said, this genre is outside my norm, but in the best of ways.  Despite the lighter atmosphere, this was still gory and creepy and awesome as hell.  It's an incredibly original idea, and the pacing was perfect--not too fast, not too slow, just enough foreshadowing and just enough of a shock factor when you figure everything out at the end.  Kudos to Blake for coming up with such a kickass plot in a market where romance has a tendency to take the reins.

I will say one thing: This book did not terrify me.  However, I think that's partially due to the inappropriate mood.  I read this primarily in school, during the day, surrounded by people, or at home, during the day, surrounded by people.  It's hard to believe in monsters when the sun's still out.  It's when you can no longer see them that they become real.

Blake's writing was very smooth.  Most of the time it was very informal; we were in Cas's head the entire time, with him as he wondered and agonized and, uh, slayed ghosts.  While the writing was usually fairly simple, it really shone when describing the ghosts, Anna in particular.  I could picture them perfectly, every frightening detail.

My favorite part of the book, though, would have to be the characters.  I really liked Cas.  He was much more . . . real than I thought he would be.  He wasn't some badass male version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (This comparison is actually made in the book--high five, Blake, high five); he was, quite simply, a real boy with real thoughts and real limitations who only became a macho killer with the athame in his hand.  Sometimes he seemed quite a bit younger than seventeen, but that didn't really bug me.  I liked all the side characters--Thomas, so awkward and eager; Cas's mother; Morfrand.  I loved Carmel and how well she defied the popular girl stereotype.

But I'm going to tell you what nearly all the other reviews have said: Anna stole the spotlight.

She was just . . . perfect.  Not perfect as in she herself was flawless; perfect as in her characterization was flawless.  As I read through the book, I just thought, If a girl was killed and turned into a murderous ghost for half a century, this is exactly what she would be like.  She was on the quiet side, but she had fight.  She was wracked with guilt, but she didn't let it stop her.  She was powerful and deadly and unsure, scared and curious and stubborn.  And I loved her to pieces.

That ending may or may not have made me bury my face in the book and shun people for a solid five minutes.  I cannot wait for Girl of Nightmares. 

5 stars.


Hannah Elisabeth

I can't remember the last "ghost story" I've read...but I've actually been really looking forward to this one. So glad to hear you didn't hate it. :D
*Scurries immediately to the library website*


I love this review. It says everything I want to say about the book. Alo, I agree: Cas was a very real character. And Anna was just breathtaking. Thanks for your review!

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