18 February 2013

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on.

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they're right, but in Cas's eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong...these aren't just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favor.

Kendare Blake single handedly turned my intrigue and curiosity towards the ghostly side of creepiness. Where normally I stay far, far away from anything with the mere suggestion of skin-crawling terror, Kendare Blake's work, first with Anna Dressed in Blood and now Girl of Nightmares, has brought me a new appreciation of things that go bump in the night.  I think in any other case, I would cast a questioning glance at the author's mental stability after seeing the product of their work, but with this book -- with its refreshingly three dimensional characters, exciting plot and great narrative -- I'm willing to make an exception.

The one thing that worries me with sequels of any kind, whether it's a part of a long, drawn out series or just a duology, is a rehashing of the first book.  With each new book, I expect a deeper and thorough progression of the characters and a plot that explores the world instead of sticking to the same set of possibilities.  Girl of Nightmares really impressed me with the way the world, and the characters, expanded.

The characters had to be my favorite thing about this book.  I cheered for and admired them in Anna Dressed in Blood and that admiration only grew with Girl of Nightmares.  I think specifically of Carmel: I loved seeing her gain dimension and progress as a character.  Normally, side characters are shoved ruthlessly aside to make room for all of the main character's drama, but Carmel was a solid presence.  In fact, all of the characters were nuanced.  They lacked the picky, petty, cookie cutter melodrama that tends to sand down the finer grains of a character.  In this respect, they all had a strong sense of realism, so it made it nearly impossible for me not to sympathize with them as they went to hell and back (literally).

The "there" that she's referring to is the Tower of London, the castle-like fortress that sits on the north bank of the Thames.  It's touristy and historical, the site of numerous tortures and executions, from Lady Jane Grey to Guy Fawkes.  Looking at it as we cross the Tower Bridge, I wonder how many screams have bounced off the stone walls.  I wonder how much blood the ground remembers.  They used to put severed heads up on pikes and display them on the bridge until they fell into the river.  I glance down at the brown water.  Somewhere underneath, old bones might be fighting their way out of the silt.

Cas's narrative made it so easy to slide into the story.  Full of great zingers and one liners, I love Cas's blatant insolence and dry humor.  This style of Anna Dressed in Blood carried over brilliantly to Girl of Nightmares.  With clear, concise imagery, Kendare Blake's writing style really brings out the creepiness in clear cut descriptions.  The effect is uber chilling.  It's incredibly easy to picture the action like a movie, which only heightens the suspense and drama.

Not that the plot needed the extra help.  Constant action, always something interesting happening.  I loved how it was perpetually moving forward.  There were no boring or useless fillers; everything had a purpose, impact.  The stakes kept building and building, pushing the characters, forcing them to make choices, to question themselves, to make sacrifices.  The climax... Ah, climaxes that make me want to cry are always memorable.  The bittersweet ones are the worst, aren't they?

Girl of Nightmares was an epic book.  I loved every page.  I must have it for my shelves.

"Are we lost?  You'd admit it if we were lost, right?"

Thomas smiles, maybe a bit nervously.  "We're not lost.  At least, not yet.  They might've changed some of the roads around since the last time."

"Who the hell are 'they'?  Road construction squirrels?"
She's wearing a white tank and low-riding black pants.  There are no visible talismans, or medallions, or jewelry.  But I catch a whiff of rosemary.  She's been anointed for protection.  Around her leg is a strap that looks to contain a knife, and there's a similar one strapped to her other thigh.  Somewhere, Lara Croft is wanting her look back.
Book Info
  • pages - hardcover, 332
  • published - August 2012
  • publisher - Tor Teen
  • genre - urban fantasy
  • received via - library :)
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - Anna #2
    • Anna Dressed in Blood | Review
    • Girl of Nightmares