Author: Kendare Blake
Title: Anna Dressed in Blood
Series: This is book 1 of 2
Genre: Ghost/chiller (YA)
Published: 5 July 2012
Source: review copy kindly sent by the publisher
Find it at Amazon UK or Goodreads
The blurb says...
Cas Lowood is no ordinary guy - he hunts dead people.
People like Anna. Anna Dressed in Blood. A beautiful, murderous ghost entangled in curses and rage. Cas knows he must destroy her, but as her tragic past is revealed, he starts to understand why Anna has killed everyone who's ever dared to enter her spooky home.
Everyone, that is, except Cas...
The novel uses Cas's voice as narrator, allowing us access to his secrets and helping to ensure we're on his side. He narrates in a chatty tone and in the present tense, also providing an immediacy to the story, and heightening the sense of danger (with the past tense, you always know they've lived to tell the tale). I loved his voice and this was definitely one of the strengths of the book for me; I love a smart character with attitude! I also enjoyed his awkwardness as he was forced to deal with others far more than was comfortable for him. The character development here is great, and some of the secondary characters are brilliant - well-drawn and engaging.
Anna is the most fleshed-out ghost character I've read (forgive me, please). At first, she's the stuff of whispered legend, but as her story unfolds, she becomes more human and the line between aggressor and victim blurs. The link between Cas and Anna is strange and not fully explored, but that is kind of the point. Cas is narrating and since he's fairly blind to it himself, and doesn't understand it even once he is more aware of it, he can't really explain it to us.
Some of the mythology behind the story remains unexplained, but not (for me) to the point of irritation. There are mysteries that may well be explored in the second book (Girl of Nightmares), but key facts are clearly established and Cas's voice is self-assured enough that you can't help but trust he knows what he's doing. I'm intrigued to know more, but don't feel let down by the mysteries behind Cas's gift and his family history.
The tension is steadily built at first, with startling peaks. I was surprised at the graphic intensity of the violence in this book, violence which is perhaps more shocking than frightening. The book didn't give me nightmares, but did compel me to keep reading to see what would happen, and I am keen to read the second in the series.
Overall, I felt this was a very well put together package of creepy plot, quirky mythology and great characters. Definitely recommended to teens and the (ahem) older YA reader.