Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

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. But she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

                      

Published August 30th 2011

I am absolutely scared of ghosts, so I should have known not to read this book late at night before drifting off to sleep.  I woke up several nights with nightmares of Anna’s bloody dress dripping on the floor. Terrifying.  I also wasn’t prepared for the vividly gruesome scenes to commence early in the book. Here is a sample:

“…I strike, drawing the blade across the throat, opening a yawning black line. The hitchhiker’s fingers come up to his neck. They try to press the skin back together, but something as dark and thick as oil floods out of the wound and covers him, bleeding not only down over his vintage-era jacket but also up over his face and eyes, into his hair. The hitchhiker doesn’t scream as he shrivels, but maybe he can’t: his throat was cut and the black fluid has worked its way into his mouth (pg.13).”

The Good:

-As a Canadian, I loved that it was based in Thunder Bay, Ontario. In Blake’s acknowledgements we learn that she actually stayed in Thunder Bay and clearly her research shows in the writing. I have many friends from Thunder Bay and from what they’ve told me, the description of the city sounds very accurate.  Apparently, even the restaurants and waterfalls described in the book actually exist!

-Quick read—chalk full of: black/white witches, Voodoo, ghost hunting and murder!  Great for reluctant readers!

-Vivid imagery (especially when describing Anna and the dress she was murdered in).

-The complexity of Anna’s character. One minute I saw her as a ruthless killer and the next as an innocent girl. I loved the way the story of her past was presented and I enjoyed trying to figure her out. Anna is a force to be reckoned with and always kept the reader guessing.

-Scary. Since it is categorized in the ‘horror’ genre, I felt it did a great job at inducing feelings of terror in the reader. It was both scary and entertaining and I just could not put it down! Maybe I’m just a sissy, but I was legit scared reading this book before bed.  I also loved how the text was printed in a strange red colour that gave off the appearance of dried blood.

 

The Bad

-Weird paranormal romance. I didn’t understand the love element between Cas and Anna. The romance was minor, and I only knew they were ‘in love’ because readers were told so. It’s a strange tragic paranormal love, and I really wish Blake omitted this addition.

-There is no way that teens could possibly have so little empathy for their murdered friends. If you witnessed a brutal murder of your friend or were the first to come across their murdered bodies I would expect that you would be devastatingly traumatized. However, these teens spent more time discussing their alibis than their murdered classmates and friends.

 

Overall, Anna Dressed in Blood is an original, gory, heartbreaking story. Indeed, the book has been recognized as one of Kirkus’ Best Teen Books of the Year (2011) and an ALA 2012 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers.  The sequel, Girl of Nightmares (Anna #2) will be published in August 2012 and I’m definitely looking forward to that one!

*Warning-Since the book is told from Cas’ teenage perspective, there are quite a bit of f-bombs!

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Amanda
    May 07, 2012 @ 04:06:23

    I totally agree with you on the ‘love’ bit. Apart from that I loved every page of it 😀 Great review!

    Reply

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