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Published: August 2011
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.
Against my better judgment, I am going to attempt a review of this book. I say against my better judgment, because I don't know if I can do it justice. I don't know if I can adequately convey how I felt while reading and immediately afterwards. I'll borrow a bit from Brigid Kemmerer, who commented on my Goodreads posting about this book. You'll know when it's her talking and not me.
First of all, I was a little intimidated by the title. I'm the first to admit that I'm not a huge fan of horror and someone being dressed in blood sounded like it would probably not be a good bet for me. Don't let the title (and that absolutely eerie cover design) scare you off though.
See, Anna Dressed in Blood is one of the most brilliant debuts I've EVER read. It's actually a book near perfection, writing-wise. I know that the horror genre is not for everyone, but I wouldn't discount it just because of that. You would be missing the point, really. This book isn't ONLY about the horror of murderous ghosts. It's another book that shows how you can rise above what you are and become what you WANT to be. It's about pushing aside differences to work towards a common good. It's about trusting yourself and your instincts. I think if you can get past the scare factor, you'll find an insanely good book waiting inside.
Which is an interesting thing...here's what Brigid had to say about Anna: "I almost felt like it read like it was two books. You had Anna's story, which was terrifying and brutal and amazing, but then it got resolved. Then you had the separate but equally powerful resolution to Cas's story. I almost feel like the latter half paled in comparison to the first half, but then again, when that ... that THING was coming after him in his bedroom, I almost couldn't sit still."
I think she's got a very valid point. It really DID read like two books. The first half is beyond horrifying and then you get a nice warm blanket about 2/3 of the way through. And then we're back to horrifying. It was very much two stories going on at the same time.
Here's what I think about Kendare's writing: if she can make me believe in a human-ghost relationship, she's brilliant. She DID make me believe it. I'd heard bits & pieces around about this aspect, and I thought it was the weirdest thing I'd ever heard. Who would try to sell a relationship between a human and the ghost he's trying to kill? Well, Kendare Blake would, and sell it, she does. I cheered for them. I WANTED them to be able to be together. Guys, when it comes to relationships, I'm something of a cynic and she convinced me.
I know that this review hasn't begun to do the book justice. I hope you can look beyond my shortcomings and give it a shot. If not, maybe this will help: ureylknts, quarioutslju, irutouslcs, wernity, plashiroesu. If real words won't work, maybe some made up ones will.
Anna Dressed in Blood is definitely a 'Pick Me'.
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