316 pp. Tor Teen 2011
Source: Finished copy received from the publisher
Interest: 2011 Debut Author
Summary (From 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.
Horror novels and horror movies aren’t my thing. I love suspense and thrillers, but all the gore and nastiness of the horror genre freaks me out. Despite all of that, I was excited when Kendare Blake signed up to be interviewed by my students because I know many of them enjoy horror novels and movies. I passed a couple copies around for them to read prior to the interview, and was happy to hear so many rave reviews from my students. They couldn’t stop talking about this debut which really grabbed my interest. Honestly, I was getting a little jealous that I couldn’t read one of my own copies! On Friday, one of the boys who borrowed Anna Dressed in Blood, returned it after school and told me it’s the best book he’s ever read. That did it for me. It was the end of the day, so no other students could claim my copy.
Anna Dressed in Blood is gripping and edgy. It’s full of humor and a little bit of romance. And of course, there’s gore. Kendare Blake, however, balances all of these aspects perfectly. Cas Lowood has a gruesome job that I would never want to be involved with. Killing ghosts isn’t pretty or neat-n-tidy. Considering I’m someone who doesn’t like horror, I was nervous about whether I’d like this book. Yes, the details of the ghost killing and such is gross, but it’s not overdone with needless detail and extra amounts of blood. Plus, Cas has an excellent witty attitude and sense of humor, which is usually incorporated to break the tension. I also appreciate that the gore isn’t on every page; it’s evenly balanced and paced throughout the novel. The romance in the novel builds slowly which I appreciate because it isn’t the primary focus of the plot. The humor and romance mixed well with the mystery and suspense, which is why I couldn’t put this book down. The story just keeps moving which had me completely engrossed. There are plenty of scary scenes, but a scene towards the end with Cas and his mom was probably the creepiest.
The cast of characters in Anna Dressed in Blood really takes the novel to another level. Cas is wonderfully sarcastic, but he’s also one who keeps to himself. Avoiding the living isn’t as easy in Thunder Bay because he meets Thomas and Carmel, who won’t leave his side and stop helping him. I wasn’t expecting characters like these to be included in the story, but I enjoyed them. They bring out a different side of Cas which makes him more dynamic. Anna, of course, really steals the show. She’s beyond scary, but there’s something more to her which I’ll let you figure out when you read the novel. Let me just say I have soft spot for Anna, even if that sounds crazy.
Anna Dressed in Blood is unlike any other novel I’ve read; it really brought me out of my comfort zone. I can’t wait to finally have the opportunity myself to rave about this book in my classes!