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.
I did not miss the fanfare Anna Dressed in Blood made with it's release last year. Bloggers across the internet were raving about its creepy goodness, and I was dying to dig in. But as these things go, I had a towering stack of un-read books and too much guilt about them to allow myself the immediate pleasure. So when Hachett UK offered me a copy in advance of their July release I was thrilled for the excuse to finally get to it. It almost killed me to wait the couple months between arrival and release to read it.
Now how excited was I, when just a few pages in I realised Anna Dressed in Blood was set on Canadian soil? And not just anywhere Canada, but places I'd been, Thunder Bay, and Kakabeka Falls (honest to god, I've camped there, with Topaz no less. Somewhere around here I have photographic evidence, I swear). Cas, you're a crazy man, Saskatoon berry jam is amazing. Did I love Thomas, Morfran and Carmel more because they were Canadian? Probably a little bit, we're such an under used culture in books, I mean come on!
I was tickled by how gory and violent Blake made the story while still managing to keep all the regular YA teen issues not only in there, but somehow seemingly still important. This balancing act is what made the book really work for me on a more character driven level and made it more than just a creepy read. The fact I can be completely creeped out, but at the same time hope Thomas and Carmel find some time in the chaos to get together is both funny and endearing.
But back to the scary. Let's be frank. How many scary books are actually scary? I mean so many claim to be, but few actually pay out. Blake had several truly creepy moments. Chilling enough I had to put the book down in broad day light and walk away, even while I was dying to know what was going to happen next. And she doesn't skimp on the gory nitty-gritty, which is really the cherry on the sunday, just, you know, don't eat any sundays while reading ok? This is not an eat-while-reading book.
All in all Anna Dressed in Blood was an excellent read. Great plot, endearingly unique characters and a great creepy edge made this book fully live up to all the hype. What remains to be seen is if Blake can keep it up for Girl of Nightmares, book two. I'm not entirely sure about how she's going to keep the story interesting and haunting, without devolving into teen angst, but I have my fingers crossed while I wait with baited breath for it's August 7th release date.
Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake
Published by Orchard Books, July 5th, 2012
My copy kindly provided by the publisher