Rummanah Aasi
  Happy Halloween! I know that I have to write a few book reviews before Anna Dressed in Blood, but the books fits perfectly with this holiday. In fact it is definitely on my list of Halloween Reads, especially if you like horror, romance, and humor. Anna Dressed in Blood is by far the best horror YA book I've read in a very, very long time.

Description (inside panel of the book):  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.

Review: If you combined the cinematic vision of Tim Burton, Neil Gaiman's familiarity of the fantastical, and the laugh out humor of Joss Whedon, you would get a result much like Kendare Blake's debut novel Anna Dressed in Blood. I've heard much talk of this book when it was released late August and read nothing but great reviews. Thankfully, the book lived up to its hype and for me, became much more.
  Cassius Theseus Lowood grew up in an unconventional family. His mother is a white witch and his father was in the business of killing the dead until one of the ghosts he was hunting murdered him in the most gruesome way. In Cas’s world, dead people often don’t want to leave the place where they died, especially if they were victims of a violent crime. Instead, they stay behind as monstrous echoes of their former selves  where most of them seek revenge for the horrors they experienced. When Cas’s father died, Cas inherited his duties and his powerful athame. He has been moving all over the country and killing ghosts since he was 14 years old. Of all the ghosts he's encountered, he has never run into a ghost as powerful as Anna nor did he ever try so hard to understand what drives a dead person to murder innocent people. 
  I loved Cas and his narration. He oozes confidence, charm with a wicked sense of humor. I couldn't help but think of the ghost busters theme song every time he appeared much to his chagrin, I'm sure.  Cas is a layered character who feels genuine, so realistic in the way he carries himself in public and what goes on in his head. Given the nature of his life, he distances himself from people, doesn't ever try to form friendships or get close to others because he knows his time is only temporary, but Thunder Bay is nothing like any other place he has stayed and it completely turns everything upside down. People are suddenly becoming tangled up in the scary, ghost-filled life he leads and for the first time ever, he's making friends (who are in large part awesome secondary characters who come into their own). And then, of course, there's Anna.
  Anna is a character that I have not met before. She is different in every way. Her moniker Anna Dressed in Blood comes from the legend surrounding her death. She was killed in 1958 while walking to the prom in her beautiful white dress. She was found with her throat slit from ear to ear and blood completely covered her white dress. Ever since her murder, Anna’s been tied to the house she grew up in and kills everyone who has tried to enter her house. Nothing is black and white in Anna's story: she is both a killer and a victim, a horrible monster and an innocent girl. Just when I thought I had warmed up to her, she turns around and does something completely unexpected and freaks me out! Her mercurial personality changes as quickly as her appearance which forces Cas to doubt every single choice he made since the beginning of his hunt.
  The relationship between Cas and Anna is fascinating. Some may interpret it to be romantic, but I see it more as kindred spirits. Cas and Anna share many similar characteristics. Both abandoned in a very young age and forced to become something they are not. I think its their sadness that establishes their connection right away. I would love to see how this relationship develops in the future books.  
Blake perfectly balances her dark, horrifying story with ample amount of humor all the while keeping the suspense pounding. The comedy works even better when juxtaposed against serious suspense. Anna leavens the comedy even as the suspense boils into terror. (Seriously, don't go in the basement. *Shudders*) I was completely immersed in the story and had to tell everyone who would listen to pick up this book immediately. Yes, there are times when you want to put the book from the freezer and it definitely made me feel jumpy, but the story and the characters are all well worth it. To those wondering how gory the book is, I will say that Blake gives you enough description to picture the images in your mind, however, I think your interpretation of the images will be is what will scare you the most.
 Original, mesmerizing, dark, romantic, spine chilling, and enormous fun, Anna Dressed in Blood is on my favorite list of horror books I've ever read. I can't wait for Girl of Nightmares (Anna #2) to come out next year!

Rating: 5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some underage drinking and language. There are gory and disturbing moments in the book, but aren't overly descriptive. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride, Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
6 Responses
  1. I'm so glad you loved this book. I never thought of their romance as you describe it, but it's so true. I had a little problem with the lack of development at their relationship and I felt like I was missing something that happened and the author just didn't tell me. If I look at it as a Kindred Spirit kind of thing it makes so much sense. They do have so much in common. Excellent review, Rummanah! I was cracking up when you mentioned putting the book in the freezer. I so need to do that when I have issues with a book!

  2. This sounds fabulous. I'm not a big horror fan, but I'm very interested in this one. I like that there is some humor mixed in. And that the characters sound so well developed.

  3. Jenny Says:

    YES!!!!! Loved this book so much! I agree with you completely on Anna, I'd be all sympathetic toward her and then she'd freak me right out and I'd be caught off guard. SO GOOD! I cannot wait for more from Kendare:)

  4. Holy Shite! Sorry for the expletive, but the opening line of your review made me say that! Talk about a tempting smorgasbord!

    From all the reviews I've read for Anna DiB, I can tell I'd love Cas. You've only added to that assurance with your description of him. Yet, I do feel like I need to wait a while to read this book myself, if only to get away from all the build up that is already in my head. LOL

  5. Jen: This book made me jump every time I heard noises. Heck, my own cell phone ringtone scared the crap out of me. LOL!

    Alison: I'm not a horror fan either, but I found this book fascinating and loved all of the characters.

    Jenny: YUP! Freaked me out every time her dressed streaked with blood.

    Missie: I had a really hard time trying to describe this to a colleague. Those three guys were the first ones to pop into my head. There's even a reference to Buffy in the book which was an added bonus!

  6. Small Review Says:

    I loved this book too! I read it on Halloween and it was such a perfect read. One of the few books that lived up to the hype for me. I like how you describe their relationship. I agree. :)

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