Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
September 9, 2011 § 8 Comments
|Anna Dressed in Blood
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.
From the fabulous cover that draws the eye and the imagination, to the extraordinary plot that is both chilling and compelling, Anna Dressed in Blood is so full of “Win” that it is no surprise this is the book that everyone is talking about. Billed as Young Adult fiction, I believe this book will appeal to everyone, regardless of genre. Anna Dressed in Blood has all the elements of an incredible ghost story; a creepy haunted house, a violent spirit with a tragic past, and a solitary hero intent on dispatching the dead to where ever it is the dead go. If that would have been all there was to the story, it probably would have been a great book. However, Kendare Blake takes this familiar plot and twists it into something brilliant and original and definitely not just a ghost story. She adds magic, witches, voodoo myth and ritual, enough death, blood, and violence to satisfy any horror fan, and then tops it off with touch of romance. On top of this, the writing is hauntingly beautiful and keeps the reader wanting more. This is a book that can be re-read again and again, and each time the reader can find something new to love about it.
Cas is the main character, but it is Anna who really draws me into the story at the beginning. She is both terrifying and alluring, capable of unimaginable violence but has this air of mystery that makes me want to understand her, figure out what happened to her to cause this much rage. Anna’s house was almost a character in itself. Dark, spooky, and mysterious, the house seems to want to draw you closer. It seemed like the house was an extension of Anna herself, eerily compelling. I wanted to explore the house, even knowing the terrible thing that’s in there. Even knowing what she’s capable of. Cas’ first encounter with Anna is the stuff of nightmares, wounded and unprepared, he finds himself in the path of a monstrous goddess like vision, black veins criss crossing her skin, eyes that are black pools, the blood soaked dress, not to mention she has been dismembering people with her bare hands for over fifty years. But for some reason she lets him live. Cas quickly learns that he is no match for Anna physically, she throws him around like a rag doll leaving him bruised and battered and even more intrigued by her. Suddenly, the job he came there to do doesn’t seem quite so easy.
Cas ends up being a lot deeper than he seems from first impression. His caustic wit, the way he refuses any offer of help, and how he admittedly uses people to gain information may make Cas look like a pretty shallow fellow. In actuality, he has deep seated reasons pushing people away, never allowing anyone close enough to form any type of friendship. All of this changes though when he arrives in Anna’s town. Suddenly he’s faced with a ghost he can’t kill, people who have the nerve to call themselves his friends, and a cat that won’t stop hissing at him. I enjoyed watching him grow as a character throughout the story. As his relationship with Anna builds, it seems that he’s also opening himself up to friendships with living people as well. The secondary characters were also fascinating and each one brought a little something unexpected to the story.
The plot is fast paced and exciting. Not a moment went by that I wasn’t completely engaged in the story. Anna Dressed in Blood is a book that will grab you and refuse to let go, forcing you to continue reading even when you want to put the book down and cover your eyes. The author has this way of building the suspense so that I could almost feel myself tense as I waited to see what was going to happen. Throughout the book, I gasped, I laughed out loud, I teared up once or twice, I was thoroughly chilled, thrilled, and entertained. The twists and turns in the plot were amazing. The second half of the book read almost like a completely separate story, but equally as fascinating. I loved the elements of voodoo, I would have enjoyed learning more about that. There was a lot of different things going on but I never once felt like it was too much, each new plot thread just added to the richness of the story.
Ultimately, I think Anna Dressed in Blood is probably the best Young Adult novel this year and will certainly be on my list of all time favorite reads. I don’t know what Kendare Blake is going to come up with to top this phenomenal debut, but I have no doubt that she will. Did you happen to see the interview she did at Down the Rabbit Hole where she answered every question with quotes from the book? How awesome is that? I predict that we’ll see some amazing things from this author, remember I said so. If you haven’t already gotten yourself a copy of this book, you should definitely do so. This isn’t one that you want to miss out on. I would recommend this to everyone.
Rating – 5