Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 316 pages
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release date: August 31, 2011
Series: Anna #1
Reviewed by: Helen
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. 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.
If you’re not a fan of horror and vivid imagery, you’re going to want to stay away from Anna Dressed in Blood. I had incredibly high hopes for this book, but unfortunately, the mechanics of it just left me disappointed for a few reasons.
More than anything, I’d say the one main element that Anna Dressed in Blood was missing was enough backstory. There’s a few key plot points that as readers we just have to accept. First, is that Cas is the only one around who can hunt ghosts. He doesn’t know why, and neither do we, we just have to go along with it. The second, is that Anna doesn’t want to kill Cas when he comes into her house. This one seems like the absolute most important for both characters to explore – but neither does. It’s just laid out there – and the rest of the story and their interactions all stem from this fact. It bugged me to no end that the reader gets basically no answers or explanations.
I’m just going to up and say this – I hated the romance. Sorry! It was incredibly strange, and there was no actual relationship building that we were able to see. It all seemed to happen in Cassio’s head, where we weren’t given much access to at all. Overnight, she was his Anna and his girl and he was infatuated, and the reader really didn’t get a chance to catch up with him on this.
I felt that the pacing was a bit off. There’s two basic story points in Anna Dressed in Blood – and the first takes up about 80% of the book. Which would normally be fine, except that in this case, I actually found the storyline in the remaining 20% had much more potential. It should have had more of a focal point, and lots more exploring, as I feel it’s actually the part of the story that won me over far more than the first.
The character of Anna herself was very interesting. I found I really enjoyed the tension as she tried to remember what happened to her that made her the way she is. However, the secondary characters were bland, and mostly just props to be later killed off as needed. I wanted to love Anna Dressed in Blood, I really did. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get there.