15 November 2012

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

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.

This was a book that I wasn't supposed to like.  Anna Dressed in Blood, from its shadowy cover to its ghost-killing main character, had every turn-off possible in my eyes.  Fact is, I don't do creepy books.  My sensitive but suggestible imagination can't handle it.  Anna Dressed in Blood surpassed all expectations and returned me to a state of readership where I read it for the love of the story, and not because five million people were shoving in my face in an attempt to get me to read it.  The main character, Cas, was captivating and memorable; his friends, seemingly ordinary people who are forced to do extraordinary things; a plot that kept me glued to the pages, and a romance that I cheered for... All wrapped together in an atmosphere layered with history and topped off with a dash of humor.

I think it was the humor that did it for me.  Kendare Blake could've easily turned this story into one that left me unable to close my eyes at night by stripping it of any relief from the suspense.  Instead, Cas's narrative is peppered with quips that had me giggling one moment, before the plot turned and I was left with a screwed up expression of disgust.  Kendare Blake didn't rely on cheap tricks and overly described gory scenes to mess with the reader.  She went past that, into the realm where (we normal people) don't like to go.  Described with simple, skin-crawling details, the story made me cringe as easily as it made me laugh.

I loved Cas's narrative for more than just his wicked tendency towards gallows humor.  His sense of vulnerability made him appear alive to me; he wasn't this fearless guy who sprinted in to slay mean ghosties.  Every move to action was precipitated by a fear of losing something, like his family or his life.  I liked that.

Also, his friends developed in a way that surprised me.  For example, he makes friends with the school's queen bee, Carmel, and I thought she'd drop out of the story completely.  Instead, she becomes one of the main characters and develops a force of her own.  Each character was developed in this way, and it gave the book a unique flavor.

The plot was a straightforward adventure story, and like many of the contemporaries of its kind, it was fast and it was heart-pumping.  Kendare Blake handled it well, presenting enough mystery to sustain the reader without riddling the entire story with lose ends to be gathered up within the last fifteen pages.  The lack of hardcore mystery made it easier, I think, to slip into the world; my brain didn't have to restart itself and think back to the last thing that had happened.  The action scenes were well described, so much so that I could see it projected in my mind like a movie.  (This book would make an awesome movie.)

Even though the romance was entirely predictable and in retrospect, Anna came off as rather flat and one dimensional, I cheered for Cas and Anna all the way.  Their romance wasn't like all the other supernatural pairings that are now a dime a dozen, where the "we can't be together" speech is worthy of an epic eye roll because it seems so melodramatic.  Not here.  I understood what stood in Cas and Anna's way.  I wanted Cas to be able to make it past the obstacles, I totally cheered for him.  Anna came off a bit one dimensional sometimes, but I didn't notice until I thought back on the book.  Fact was, they worked for each other and for me.

I loved the atmosphere Kendare Blake created.  Settled in its spookiness, it was easy to get lost in the world of Thunder Bay.  It was equal parts creepy and intriguing.  It makes me want more of the world, just as much as I want more of Cas and Anna's story.

Anna Dressed in Blood is perfect for those who love a thrill, as well as for those who don't.  I'm so glad I picked it up -- a hearty "thank you" to those five million people who were dying for me to read it.  I loved every page.

Quotes
I’ve seen most of what there is to be afraid of in this world, and to tell you the truth, the worst of them are the ones that make you afraid in the light. The things that your eyes see plainly and can’t forget are worse than huddled black figures left to the imagination. Imagination has a poor memory; it slinks away and goes blurry. Eyes remember for much longer.
I watch him with amusement. There’s a blue light special on territorial jocks in aisle four.
"I’ve been Obeahed by an Obeahman? Is this like how the Smurfs say they smurfing smurfed all the time?"
Book Info
  • pages - hardcover, 316
  • published - August 2011
  • publisher - Tor Teen
  • genre - urban fantasy/paranormal romance
  • received via - library :)
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - Anna
    • Anna Dressed in Blood
    • Girl of Nightmares | Review