Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

SUMMARY: 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.


The Short Version:
Brilliant in concept and pulling in numerous unique elements, Anna Dressed in Blood is absolutely fantastic. High on the creep factor but balanced out with emotion and humor, this one has a unique but enjoyable atmosphere. With a strong, likable, well developed protagonist and sticking firmly to the core of the ghost aspect while throwing innumerable twists and completely unexpected turns in, this book will grab readers from page one and not let go even when the last page is finished.

The Extended Verion:
Cas is intelligent, perceptive, very self sufficient and determined. He has an interesting mentality, bred from years of being a ghost hunter and the knowledge that his father died because of one. Despite the brutality of his father’s death, and the role it does play for him, Cas doesn’t dwell only on that nor is he on a suicide mission for vengeance. Good at what he does, but respectful of the ghosts he encounters, Cas is a new kind of hero. His subtly shifting thoughts and world views have a strong motivation behind them, and overall, his character is just fantastically well done and completely believable.

Anna is a hard character to talk about without giving away any major spoilers, but she is just as phenomenally built as Cas, and has quite the tale and twists of her own. Coming in pretty early and holding a near constant presence, the reader will get to know this ghost as well as they do Cas. Her reasons for sparing him, and the full nature of her is something readers will have to find out, but it is a story worth reading and Blake’s own effort put into is clear and highly appreciated.

With a relatively small but still lively, well rounded supporting cast, Cas suddenly finds himself not so alone for the first time. The way this changes him is clear, and the impact he has on them is also easy to see. And while there is a romantic element to this one, it’s done in a soft way that never steals the focus of the book, nor does it suddenly and drastically alter everything.

The pacing is swift and well maintained, with a fantastic build to some explosive scenes, before a slight lull and an all new build up. Never hurried nor dragging on for too long, however, Blake’s timing is perfect across multiple elements. The worldbuilding is completely seamless, happening easily for the reader without even letting them realize it’s occurring. From the history to the now, the reader smoothly finds out what Cas does. Building mystery and completely unpredictable turns keep the reader gripped and engaged. This is one I read in one sitting, unable to put it down for anything.

Writing wise, this one is just fabulous. Blake’s natural talent comes through boldly, with some incredibly vivid descriptions that build every scene and action, without being too lengthy or bulky. The voice screams Cas, and builds his mentality and character, while still also pulling back in a way that lets the reader see the scene as a whole as well as right through Cas’s eyes. With plenty of humorous lines slipped in at perfectly timed moments, Blake blends comedy with the darker nature of the story. Her descriptions are unique and fresh, while still being easy to understand and relate to, and never once was I pulled out of the story by the writing. Instead, it pulled me in, slipping me into its arms and cradling me while I was right alongside Cas every step of the way.

There are plenty of unique elements throughout this book, holding ties to other, more known things but which Blake has twisted to make her own. Beautifully constructed and brilliantly executed, from start to finish, this book is a homerun across the board. Emotional and intense at times, creepy and unsuspecting at others, Anna Dressed in Blood is a brilliant debut that is a must read, and certainly a reread.

Source: ARC received from author in exchange for an honest review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: August 30, 2011


  1. Love books high on the creep factor. Definitely a must read for me now.

    Megan @ Read It, See It

  2. Wow! Great review! I thought this would just be a scary story -- I'm glad to hear it has humor and great characters! So excited to read this one!!