Anna Dressed in Blood
by Kendare Blake
Series: Anna #2
Published on 2011-08-30
by Tom Doherty Associates
Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Young Adult
Length: 316 pages
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Also by this author: Anna Dressed in Blood, Three Dark Crowns
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. Anna Dressed in Blood is a 2011 Kirkus Best Teen Books of the Year title. One of NPR's Top 5 Young Adult Novels of 2011.
If you follow me on Twitter, or indeed anywhere around the blogosphere, you’ll know I’m not a big fan of horror or psychological thrillers – but after hearing so much praise for Anna Dressed in Blood, I decided to give in and hoped it would change my opinion of the genre. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t for me, so although it’s well-written, I can’t say I enjoyed it much.
Anna Dressed in Blood is a book published before young adult horror became a trend, before it was cool to have dead people in your novels, and before the TV show Supernatural was the worldwide phenomenon it is today.
Cas is a highly unusual narrator: you’re more likely to find him researching urban myths than you are to find him on an Xbox, and you’re more likely to see him hunting down ghosts than you are to see him on the football field – but he’s still a likeable guy. He’s lonely, but you keep rooting for him no matter what.
Having inherited his duty from his father, who died a decade ago, Cas Lowood’s only focus is ridding the world of the dead before they leave even more tragedies in their wake. No matter who tries to persuade him it’s not a good idea, he can’t resist going after one ghost after another – not for kicks, but because he feels it’s what he’s here to do. Anna Korlov should have been just another ghost for his file. Also known as Anna Dressed in Blood, because she died in a blood-soaked, lacy white dress, her murder was never solved – and rumour has it her ghost still lives inside the house that used to belong to her family.
But there’s an unwritten rule in Canada’s Thunder Bay about that house: once you go in, you don’t come back out.
Anna is just as terrifying and nightmarish as you’d expect, if not more so. She just leaps off the page. She’s gloriously malicious and unnervingly real. She’s not just a symbol of horror, however; she’s complicated and watching her story unfold is somehow fascinating – if completely disturbing. You’ve got to remember that she never set out to be a malevolent spirit: she may have done wrong, so wrong in fact it’s unforgivable, but she’s been stuck in one place for fifty years with no hope of escaping her curse and somewhere in there, she’s still a young girl. She’s had her innocence ripped away from her.
Carmel and Thomas provide much needed relief against the backdrop of tension and gore. I wasn’t expecting to like them so much but Carmel defies stereotypes and Thomas is a great ally for Cas during a very dark time, so it’s hard not to enjoy reading about them.
The writing in Anna Dressed In Blood is gritty and rough – great for the story that it tells, as the last thing a horror reader wants is a simpering, saccharine tone. I appreciate the depth and skill with which the book is written, but it’s not a book I would go back to read voluntarily. It’s very gruesome and although there’s romance, I wouldn’t recommend it to another reader knowing the kind of stomach-churning description and appalling carnage it contains. It took a lot for me to be able to stick with it and though I’m as much a fan of good stories as the next person, I won’t be reading the sequel. It’s very dramatic, but it’s just not my style!
One thing’s for sure, if you’re brave enough to read this book, you’re not going to forget it in a hurry.