Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review: ‘Anna Dressed in Blood’ by Kendare Blake

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.
(Amazon product description)

Anna Dressed in Blood

I loved this book!  Cas has one of the best voices of a teenage boy that I’ve read in a really long time.  I’ve noticed a trend lately in authors wanting their characters to be “snarky,” but not every writer can write convincing snark...most come across like they’re trying too hard.  Cas’s voice was natural and relaxed.  He was funny, without trying to be.  Another great thing about Cas is he’s supposed to be this kick-ass ghost killer, yet the first time he meets Anna, she wipes the floor with him. I love it! 

Anna is a brilliant character.  She is terrifying and gory and homicidal...all of the things teen heroines are not.  The author took a real risk with her, but the risk paid off.  Anna transforms into a sympathetic character through the course of the novel, drawing the reader into her story and the mystery behind her death. 

Rounding out the cast are several other interesting and well-developed characters.  Cas’s mom is a Wiccan who hates what her son does and fears for his safety, yet she still leads him around the country from job to job, ghost to ghost.  Carmel starts off as a shallow popular girl, but turns into a loyal and trustworthy friend.  Thomas comes across as the stereotypical nerd, but he runs head first into Anna’s house to drag an unconscious Cas to safety. 

But for many readers, the characterization might take a backseat to the action and gore, of which there are plenty!  This novel is fun, but it is a horror novel.  It is a long way from the teen paranormal romances that are so popular these days.  I think the book will appeal to boys and girls equally.  The fight scenes are well done, and the details of blood and rotting corpses are not glossed over.  There is enough humor to keep the story from being too scary, so all but the most squeamish readers will be able to handle it. 

Overall, I give Anna Dressed In Blood...

Plot - 4 1/2 bookmarks
Character development - 12 bookmarks (Okay, I know my scale only goes up to 5, but this is my blog post, and I can rate the way I want. :)  )
Fight sceens - 4 1/2 bookmarks
Blood & guts - 5 bookmarks
Romance - 3 1/2 bookmarks
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Jamie Campbell Bower (Cas- as long as he can pull off and American accent), Lucy Hale (Anna), Sarah Gadon (Carmel), Aaron Johnson (Thomas), Diego Boneta (Will)

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