Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Publisher: Tor Teen
Source: From publisher for review
Urban Fantasy/Young Adult
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.
I’m notoriously hard on YA. Not because there’s not a lot of excellent stuff out there, there is, but because my (almost) 35 year old self has trouble identifying with a lot of the voices and situations on offer. I have to be able to connect with my protagonist, and sometimes with YA, that’s hard for me to do. Not so with Anna Dressed in Blood. Cas is one of the freshest narrators to come along in a while, and he’s a boy, which in and of itself is unusual with the recent proliferation of romantic, female protag infused novels. Cas is a cynical 17 year old, with his eye on the business at hand, which is killing ghosts. He travels the country with his mum, working on tips from his small network of acquaintances, who know what he does. His athame, a knife left to him by his father, is the source of his power, and he doesn’t know where the ghosts go when he uses it on them, he just knows that ghosts that kill people have to be stopped, and he’s the one to do it. Until he meets Anna…
I adored this book, absolutely adored it! It has a couple of parallels with the tv series Supernatural, and to me, that’s a good thing. Cas reminds me a bit of Dean, unwilling to get close to anyone, and with a overreaching goal of avenging the gruesome death of his father at the hands of an unknown evil. It’s the boys’ mom in Supernatural, but you get the idea. It also has the same feel to it, with the crackling, gloomy undertones and sense of creeping dread. Cas has come to Thunder Falls with one goal in mind, to kill the ghost they call Anna Dressed in Blood, but Anna is different. When one of the most popular guys in Cas’ new school meets his demise at Anna’s hands, Cas gains a circle of friends that he doesn’t really want, but that are determined to help him with his mission, including the beautiful and popular Carmel, and the telepathic and sweet Thomas, who turns out to be a key element in Cas’ goals. Anna’s story is a tragic one, and I won’t give anything away by giving too much detail, but the mystery of Anna might lead Cas to the truth of his father’s death, and you’ll want to be with him every step of the way. Anna Dressed in Blood gallops along, bringing with it all the best elements of mystery and horror, and if I didn’t know better, I’d think it was written by an old pro. There are no missteps here, and Ms. Blake is expert at creating a sense of terror, and while she has no trouble with gruesome detail, she knows just when to reign it in, let the creep factor take over, and also when to provide some much needed levity in the form of gallows humor. I could hardly put Anna Dressed in Blood down, and would probably recommend it for more mature teens and certainly for adults. The crossover potential of this book is fantastic, and anyone that loves horror and ghost stories will devour this in one sitting!