Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna Dressed in Blood #1)

Anna Dressed in BloodBy Kendare Blake

Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: August 30, 2011
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Source: Publisher

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.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

Goodreads Summary

Cas Lowood and his mother are headed to Thunder Bay, Ontario in search of his latest assignment: find a local legendary ghost and get rid of her. Not all ghosts the friendly Casper kind – some linger around and find ways to kill people, like the hitchhiker from his last job who’d managed to off a bunch of people by getting him to pick them up then yanking the wheel of their car so they’d plunge off a bridge to their deaths. So at seventeen, Cas’ job, like his father’s before him, is to follow tips from his sources and send these warped spirits back where they belong with a final killing slice from his father’s athame.

A new tip has him looking for anyone who’ll tell him about the city’s most dangerous dead citizen, Anna Korlov, also known as Anna Dressed in Blood. Kids have been disappearing for a while and while no one to wants to say it publicly, the whispering is that they’ve gone into Anna’s Victorian mansion and not come out. Cas wants to find the best source of gossip so he zeros in on the perfect target – the school’s resident gorgeous girl Carmel, who tells him all about it. Her ex-boyfriend Mike isn’t thrilled to see her with someone else and when he learns that Cas is interested in Anna, he delivers him to her through her front door via a plank to the back of his head.

The beautiful Anna doesn’t want Cas though. Standing in front of him in her lovely white dress, slowly turning red as it begins to drip blood, she grabs Mike and pulls him through the window before tearing him in half. Cas’ friends pull him back out in time to watch Anna walk away.  Cas thinks there’s something different about Anna than the other ghosts he’s killed and needing to know what, he keeps going back to the house to talk to Anna.

At this point, I’m wondering what on earth I’ve let myself in for. The pulling in half isn’t really graphic, which sounds funny. It’s just tearing in half, nothing coming out or anything although there is one part that made me close one eye. This book has graphic violence, more than I’ve read in a YA novel than I can remember other than from Dia Reeve’s books (there may be others but that’s what comes to mind because it’s the most recent I’ve read). I wouldn’t go so far as to say people in high school can’t read it, but I wouldn’t go lower than that.

Cas’ father was murdered when he was just seven by a ghost of some kind in Baton Rouge and he’s been chasing ghosts, building his skills so he can eventually go back and avenge him. His mother has mostly checked out since his dad died and her contribution to his lifestyle is cleaning his athame and sticking oil on his head for protection. She’s the rather typical YA novel parent, in other words. I should be glad she’s not dead like they generally are.

There was a sense of neatness to the story that bothered me sometimes. Of course the perfect girl to tell Cas about Anna liked him immediately. Of course when the police came to question Cas and the group, his story put them off the trail completely. Of course Cas’ mother basically just wrung her hands and supplied magic he could roll his eyes at because parents are meant to be useless until the plot requires some sort of action and then they can fade back into the woodwork. I had a mental image of pieces of the story inside blocks and there was no way anything was going to leak out of them, even if it would have given a dash of realism or refreshing conflict.

Cas ends up with a couple of sidekicks, unwanted at first, then friends-sidekicks-sequel bait eventually. Carmel turns out to be less air-headed than expected and is another character that falls into that neat box I mentioned earlier. His other friend Thomas is a psychic and grandson of a witch who can practice black magic (convenient, eh?). I have to give it to Blake though, they end up with fairly developed personalities by the end of the book so if they appear in the next, I can pick up with them easily.

I’ve only read a couple of books written by male authors from a guy’s perspective so it may be coloring my thoughts about this one written by a female author. I just didn’t really have a feeling that I was hearing a guy’s voice from the narrator. Of course, I don’t know what a guy’s voice is, not being one, but especially as the book went on and when it came to his thoughts about Anna, it felt feminine. Cas thinks of himself as a strong, hardened guy who’s surprised to find out his weakness turns out to be this ghost – it seemed his voice would have been different.  It was only as the book got closer to the end and the voice got more “male” that I really noticed it.

Anna’s story – and hers was really the most compelling to me – was so sad and terrible that it made me forgive the things she’d done. I won’t spoil it, even behind tags, but it’s enough to justify Cas’ feelings for her and make me want to read the next book in the series and see if it will involve her.

My Summary: This had a cleanliness that bothered me at times, but I trusted the author had a place to go with it and she led me to an epic conclusion. The character of Cas was shaken, new alliances were forged and Anna became something even more beautiful than she was in life. I’m hoping that in the sequel the secondary characters can break through some more now that the main characters have established themselves and really – conflict is okay. Bring that sequel on!

My Rating: B+

Barbara

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