Author: Kendare Blake
Title: Anna Dressed in Blood
Series: Anna (#1)
Publisher: Tor Teen (August 2011)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“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’ blurb
Well, first off, let me say that Anna Dressed in Blood is one of the very, very few physical books I got this year (it was the best gift ever!) and I’m so very, very glad it was: I mean, a book printed in dark blood red? How cool is that?
However, beyond any level of pretty, there’re three main reasons why I must add my voice to the noise out there and scream “Read It!”.
One, Cas. He’s the main character, and he’s utterly likeable not only because he’s a male lead, which is hard enough to find in paranormal that I add all items I find to my TBR in autopilot, but for his voice. He has this sense of maturity to him that I don’t remember on most teenagers, while at the same time not being, by any means, an “adult”. He’s a guy who’s been through a lot, and that shows in the way he faces his life. It specially shows in his humor. Cas is not only steady, determined, loyal and smart... He’s also dry and witty. I don’t jot down quotes as a rule, but I did note several quotes of him that made me smile, or laugh, or just love him even before we even got to meeting Anna.
Two, the romance. It’s not overly sweet, or overly perfect. As a matter of fact, when I finished the book, the first thing I did was storming Twitter and asking whether there was a book two, and when should I be expecting it to come out. Kendare was nice enough to reply and let me know that Girl of Nightmares will hit the shelves in summer 2012, so I’m still holding out hope about the ending, but... That’s not actually the reason I think this part was so perfectly done in a genre where love is always so fast as complete.
What got me was the fact that, way before we had a Couple, we had Cas and we had Anna. They both stood tall in their own right. They both were strong characters, well developed, with their pasts and their issues. They didn’t need to lean in each other for support, they didn’t need the other to make their life worthy. They are two individuals who fall in love and only then stand together. I know that, in light of the ending, some readers may disagree with this whole “strong enough on their own” thing, and I’ll say: yes, Cas needed help. Badly. But he also helped before. He wasn’t strong enough at some points, and he succeeded where it mattered. So, in the end, I feel like he and Anna stood on even footing, which, for me, reinforced their relationship. It was not only more real, but also most satisfying.
Finally, we get to our third reason. Plot. Storyline and foreshadowing, actually. See, while the end of the final conflict was a total surprise, I should have seen the conflict coming miles off. All the clues where there, from the very beginning. I even noted them, told myself “there’s something here”. But Kendare Blake kept the story going so tight, her character conflict so enthralling, that I pushed the clues to the back of my head and failed miserably in putting them together. I was too focused with what was going on to ponder too much on what was coming.
So, when it finally hit me –and Cas-, my jaw literally dropped. I stared at the book uncomprehending, my heart beating like crazy, and I beat myself up for not expecting it when all the clues had been not just under my nose, but dutifully noted too!
I don’t know if I’m right, but... managing to pull that off? That’s what I call talent.
And Anna Dressed in Blood is what I call a great book, and if you still haven’t read it, you need to get your hands in your own copy as soon as possible.