Sunday, October 9, 2011

Review: Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake


Anna Dressed In Blood
by Kendare Blake

Series: Anna Dressed In Blood (#1)
Pages: 316
Publisher: Tor Teen
Published: August 30th, 2011
IBSN: 9780765328656

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.

Cas's father was killed gruesomely before his eyes, and since, he's been following in his footsteps. He's inherited the family career, hunting down dead that don't stay dead. Travelling with his amateur witch of a mother, he encounters the urban legend of Anna Dressed In Blood, a ghost who tears to pieces anyone who crosses the threshold to her home. In a joke gone wrong, Cas and his friends see Anna do just that, but for some reason, she spares him.

Anna Dressed In Blood is not something I would have picked up on my own, given by squeamishness about horror movies. But rave reviews from some of my most trusted fellow reviewers had me trying out a genre I wasn't used to, and being glad for it.

Cas's narration was immediately easy to get swept up in. He's been through terrible and strange things and his personality reflected that in his courage and hesitancy around people and in the almost nonchalant way he regarded some of the paranormal aspects. I especially admired how he accepted what he needed to do without taking pause to complain, even when things were difficult.

All of the secondary characters were fleshed out as well. It was easy to get a clear idea of who they were early on. In the cases where characters took dramatic turns (read: in the case of Anna), it's justified and Blake skilfully writes her character to contrast with her old self in a big way.

The story was paced smoothly and the action and drama well-plotted. Blake expertly wrote palpable tension and emotions into the story without weighing the narration down with superfluous descriptions. Anna was exciting in mostly following an action-centric plot, but it also had softer moments that brought out different sides to our characters.

Anna Dressed In Blood reintroduces paranormal fans to the genre's horror origins, while presenting endearing characters and a thrilling plot. A compelling read from an author worth keeping an eye on.

I give Anna Dressed In Blood a 4 out of 5.