Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
There’s avery good reason I’m writing this review at gone 1 in the morning, mainly because yet again, I’ve been surprised by a book I was sure wasn’t going to be quite for me.
Cas Lowood is no ordinary teenager. Following in his father’s footsteps he he hunts down ghosts and despatches them into the next life. His interest is piqued though when he hears rumours of a spectacularly vengeful ghost named Anna, Anna Dressed in Blood. Her crimes demand that Cas destroy her but once he uncovers the scret to her tragic past his duty becomes muddy and unclear, especially when Cas becomes the only person to cross her house threshold without being killed himself.
I’m not a big fan of supernatural boys-meets-girl stories (odd I know for someone who loves fantasy and scifi), but I think what made this book for me was that it didn’t read like your typical girl-meets-boy. There was more to it than that, especially when our two teens don’t even fall in love at first sight and aren’t always entirely likeable.
Cas for me is a bit of an odd fish. On the one hand, he’s a highly principled character who serves to uphold his father’s legacy as a dispatcher of ghosts and work to protect his mother. On the other, he’s prepared to manipulate and use others to make sure he gets the information he needs for his ghostbusting. Case in point when he pinpoints the most popular girl in school within a few hours of his first day at his new school and manages to get himself an invitation to a party that same day, all to get more information on Anna. Nevermind the fact that the popular girl think she’s interested in her, Cas is blinkered enough to focus solely on his goal of Anna and discards any wrongs he may be doing to his new friend. It’s an interesting mix of principled and singleminded, worthy and manipulative that makes Cas a far more robust character than I expected him to be.
Anna though is the real star of the show. She is undoubtedly the book’s tragic damsel i distress but she’s not your average tied-to-the-traintracks save-me!-save-me! heroine. She packs a wallop for a start (the first death we encounter at her hands is spectacularly gruesome) and as her story unravels, her resilience and attempts to divert her nature as a ghost build her up as a truly worthy character. This in turn only makes her story that much more tragic and you end the book even feeling a sense of anger yourself on her behalf, even though it’s all a load of fiction.
The onyl thing I’d say in warning about this book is that when I say it’s gory, I mean it’s gory. Some of the murders are really quite horrifically violent, including Anna’s own. There’s also some hints towards abuse too so this is most definately not a book I’d confidently recommend to younger teens or tweenagers. Not that I think half of them couldn’t cope with it, but I’m not entirely sure some of it is quite what parents would be happy their tweens were reading. As always though its a question of an individual reader’s maturity so if in doubt before picking it out, it’s always best for parent/reader to take a peek through it first. No one wants the screaming heebie jeebies keeping them from sleep for a week.
Despite the violence I really quite enjoyed Anna Dressed in Blood and I will certainly put it’s sequel Girl of Nightmares onto my To Read list.
Find Anna Dressed in Blood here.