Author: Kendare Blake
Published: August 30th, 2011 by Tor Teen
Summary: Cas 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. 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: 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.
But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life.(From Goodreads.com)
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake is a haunting story that begs for death and hopes for redemption. And while Anna will most likely haunt my dreams for months to come, all I can say is, it was totally worth reading her bone-chilling story.
The morbidity of Anna Dressed in Blood calls to me with its gruesome, twisted plot and exceptional character development of Cas, the narrator. Cas, fully named Theseus Cassio Lowood, is our homicidal-ghost slaying MC and he may exist among the breathing, but seems to be more comfortable in the world of death and decay. Most likely it's because he's been fighting ghosts since he was 14, slaying them with his father's wickedly, cool athame. I imagine it's also because anyone who has seen and felt as much death as Cas, doesn't relate well to those who flit through life in their bubbles of ignorance and petty grievances. Cas, who lost his father at the age of seven, brutally murdered by a flesh gnawing ghost, knows his place in the world. He kills the ghosts who kill others. It is his legacy, it is his purpose.
Handsome, sharp and clever, Cas has this way about him, this single minded sense of devotion to his cause. A devotion that seems to work its way into my heart and rough it up a bit because while I love Cas for all that he is, sometimes I wanted to kick him in the pants for his single mindedness to the point of his own possible destruction. In Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas' focus seems to narrow in solely on Anna:
Anna is descending upon me, coming down the stairs without taking any strides. Her feet drag horribly along like she can't use them at all. Dark purplish veins cut through her pale white skin. Her hair is shadow-less black, and it moves through the air as though suspended in water, snaking out behind and drifting like reeds. It's the only thing about her that looks alive.
Cas is weirdly drawn to Anna and as the book progresses I couldn't help but think he suffered slightly from Stockholm Syndrome *grins*. Which was made even funnier later on when Cas brings up his weird infatuation with Anna, himself. Therefore, blowing over some of the creepy feelings we have over the whole "relationship".
But, Anna...oh Anna...she's strong, so strong, but she's also dead. She kills anyone who enters her house, but for some reason she doesn't have to kill Cas, who ends up thrown in as a school prank by a bunch of egotistical pricks.
Anna is a macabre piece of the plot and never pretends to be anything other than what she is; a dead girl who has killed for the past fifty years and will most likely continue to kill. She has a sense of guilt, but it doesn't stop her from her demanded purpose - death. The scenes involving Anna are horrible and intense and hellacious at times with rotting corpses and tormented spirits. And all the while I was kind of sinking deeper into the gruesomeness of Anna while also catching these little glimpses of the this other girl, a girl who was alive and kind and never killed, a girl I kind of wanted to like. That is, when she wasn't dismembering bodies and shredding intestines into little bits.
But still...Cas sees this other side of Anna, this almost-alive teenage girl and while he spends most of the book attempting to kill her, he has an underlying understanding of her, too. As individual characters, I loved the sharp wit of Cas and the strength of Anna, but I didn't fully feel the direction the book took in regards to them and the emotions building between them. It wasn't because I couldn't relate to them as characters, because oddly enough I could, but because I think their relationship lacked development. I felt like there were all these hidden moments and stolen conversations between Cas and Anna that I missed out on because they weren't put into the book and without them their relationship felt slightly...lacking. And to be totally honest, a relationship between a boy and a dead girl really should never be skimped in the development department because instead of hoping for kisses, I was little bit creeped out. Don't get me wrong, I still felt something between them..that spark that makes a reader wake up and take notice, the one that makes you sigh at every glance, every accidental touch and every unsuccessful stabbing.
We're not children, neither of us. We don't believe in fairy tales. And if we did, who would we be? Not Prince Charming and Sleeping Beauty, I slice murder victims' heads off and Anna stretches skin until it rips, she snaps bones like green branches into smaller and smaller pieces. We'd be the fricking dragon and the wicked fairy. I know that. But I still have to tell her.
"It isn't fair."
Fantastically creepy, Anna Dressed in Blood is a heart-pounding, spine-tingling ghost story that ripped me apart with its raw pain, gruesome corporeal details and its noble grasp of loyalty, strength, guilt and hopeless salvation. Author Kendare Blake's debut novel took so much, making me appreciate all it gave in return. And besides....I can't help but wonder what I would do faced with Anna and her bleeding white dress.
"Nobody gets to be anybody," I snap. "We are not ghostbusters. I've got the knife, and I kill the ghosts, and I can't be tripping over you the whole time. Besides, it's obvious that I would be Peter Venkman." I look sharply at Thomas. "You would be Egon."