Title: Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna #1)
Author: Kendare Blake
Publisher: Tor Teen
Released: 30th August 2011
Rating: 4 stars
Those of you who know me know how wary I am of books with hype. When I saw this in the shop, I was excited that I’d get to (finally) read it, but also a bit cautious. Now I can happily say that this book was good. It started off a little bland, but a few chapters in it picked up and made me want to see it through to the end.
When you hear the word ‘ghost’, what do you think of? White sheets with holes for eyes? Translucent shapes that go around opening and slamming cupboard doors? Peeves the poltergeist, with all his mischief? Cas Lowood would tell you different. Ghosts can get much worse. And sometimes when they die, they stick around to inflict their cause of death on clueless passers-by. It’s Cas’ job to send them to...wherever it is they need to be. Now he’s off to go kill Anna Dressed in Blood. Only she’s not so straightforward a job as usual. No, instead he finds that she doesn’t want to kill him like she does every other person who enters her house, and he doesn’t want to kill her – even less when he finds out the true story behind her death.
I should probably warn you now, this is not for the faint of heart. If you’re not into blood and gore, you might want to consider before you read it. I was surprised at some of the scenes and details that were in here, but at the same time I appreciated them. It was grisly, but not so much that it crossed the boundary into truly horrific. Or maybe that’s just me. Strangely enough, I wasn’t disturbed by the gruesomeness. I think there was only one small part where I felt mildly uneasy, and the rest I was OK with. While I try not to think about what that might say about me, what I will say is that I loved how different it was from a lot of other reads. I haven’t read many ghost books – actually, I can’t think of any that I’ve read where ghosts were the main focus – but the way this was written, the refusal to shy away from all the gory details and just the general concept, definitely kept me interested.
Cas was such a great voice to be narrating the story. There’s something to be said for reading from a guy’s point of view. It’s refreshing and if done well, it can really work. I enjoyed reading from his – often humourous –perspective. He was what you might call an interesting guy. It was amusing and slightly bewildering to see how he preferred things that that the average person doesn’t and how talking about killing ghosts and preparing for the next one flowed naturally from him. Having said that, it showed him to be both a practical person and also someone who likes things and people to be straight and upfront. No sugar-coating, no pretence, and I really liked that about him. Later on the other sides to him were shown, like how he felt about what he was doing, and his ultimate mission that linked back to his father, all of which strengthened the connection between him and me as a reader.
Thanks to the behaviour of typical jocks Mike and Chase, Anna was a character I bonded with and had sympathy for even before we were properly introduced. When she appeared, the description of her was beautifully vivid so I had a very clear picture of her in my head. Again, she was very multi-dimensional. There’s the impressively creepy ghost side, her battle to stay in control when Cas was around, and of course the events surrounding her death, the fears and memories she kept at bay until she was forced to watch it play out right in front of her. I have to say, I did not expect what actually happened. The truth was far sadder than I imagined. All of this showed her strength and gave an understanding for her actions. I adored the dynamics of the relationship between her and Cas. It started off simple and then evolved into something sweet and heart-warming, culminating in an end that I wasn’t hugely prepared for. While it created the perfect opening for the sequel, that did not make it any less tragic.
Overall, Anna Dressed in Blood is definitely one that lives up to the hype. Kendare Blake did a fabulous job of linking different parts of the plot together and creating characters that had me emotionally invested, not just Cas and Anna, but also Cas’ friends. Full of creepy goodness and some welcomed humour, this book is not one you want to miss out on.