Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

I’m fresh off a Nightmare Before Christmas viewing, so mostly I found myself wanting to start this review with “This is Halloween! This is Halloween! Halloween Halloween!” And then cue Jack Skellington coming up in style.

But this post is about a book. A ghost book.

Still, I couldn’t have asked for better timing, it being Halloween and all.


by Kendare Blake
Tor Teen, 2011
YA paranormal fantasy
Rated: cookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookiehalfrating / 5 cookies

annadressedbloodCas 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. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: 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.

Yet she spares Cas’s life.

What I Loved

Eye-catching cover. I’d seen Blake’s Girl of Nightmares first (the second and final book of the Anna duology), and loved the cover of that. Then I saw Anna Dressed in Blood and thought it was so much cooler. And admittedly a bit creepier, considering we don’t see Anna’s face, and for all I know, she could be totally ratchet behind all that hair. Like, The Grudge ratchet. Doesn’t turn out that way, but you never know.

That tagline made me giggle. It seriously went like this:

Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story…

Granted, it’s not the best tagline ever, and it probably could be said about a bunch of other wonderful books, but this is coming from what I thought was a horror book, about a crazy ghost out for vengeance and a ghost hunter who eventually thinks the ghost has gone far enough. Then Cas starts getting the feels for Anna and all shit gets surreal. Much like the tagline.

Liking the primary ghost antagonist way too much. Well, admittedly I liked her the minute she showed up. And when she does show up, I always feel like saying, “Anna. Anna Dressed in Blood. Anna, you’re dripping, honey, don’t ruin the floors!” She’s a frightening sight, to be sure, and the fact that she can render a human being positively limbless makes her even more intimidating. Fortunately, she’s limited to her quaint Victorian house in Ontario, which is far north and away from my quaint little house in Jersey. Granted, I’m pretty sure we have a bannik in our bathtub, but that’s a whole other matter entirely.

Imagining Cas as Dean from Supernatural. Cas isn’t very good at being humble-braggy, to be honest. There’s a point in the book where he contemplates the possibilities as to why girls are easier for him to talk to, and one of his bulletpoints included the fact that he might be easy on the eyes. I’m actually surprised nobody pegged him for “that guy in Supernatural“, especially when there was so much allusion to Ghostbusters and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Still, since I don’t really know how Theseus Cassio looks like (and what a name, by the way!), I’m totally imagining him as Dean.

Love/Hate Relationships

The seemingly two-dimensional characters. Besides Cas and Anna, I didn’t really warm up to the characters up until the last fifty pages or so. Thomas still seemed like a hanger-on throughout the book, and only near the end he finds his footing. Same thing with Carmel. Cas’ mom and surrogate father-figure also played quite a bit of a role in Cas’ life, but I always found their involvements incomplete, Gideon especially. But like I said, I did wind up liking the characters near the end. Maybe because all the annoying ones kind of just…get killed off. Ho hum.

What I Didn’t Like

I expected to be scared, not grossed out. There was some comparison between this book and Rin Chupeco’s The Girl from the Well, and I think comparing the two books has little merits. For one, the style and tone are completely different. Yes, there’s a murdered girl involved. Yes, these girls totally deserve exacting vengeance on the wicked. No, Anna and Okiku are not the same kind of girl. Which is a good thing in some respects. All the same, The Girl from the Well–which I’d reviewed previously–brought on an amount of scary that I felt was lacking in Anna Dressed in Blood. True, the descriptions of mangled bodies and bloody corpses were horrifying in every respect, but it was horrifying in a cringe-worthy way, not a “afraid to go near a window in case long, slender arms grab you through the glass” kind of horrifying. There was ultimately one instance where I’d gotten nervous (and just a bit scared) for the characters–but that had nothing to do with Anna and all to do with the things that go bump in the attic.

That dialogue, though. I don’t think I could quote anything of what the characters said to each other. They weren’t very interesting, to be honest. I rather liked the visual descriptions being given to everything. Cas himself was a good and entertaining narrator. When the characters broke out into dialogue, though, it was kind of underwhelming to have to trudge through their conversations. Even Anna’s mother had uninteresting things to say.

3.5 out of 5 cookies! I did enjoy the book. It shined in its fast pace and description. Anna Korlov herself was a star ghost, both terrifying and beautiful and every bit as ghosty as the next.




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