Book Review

Anna Dressed In Blood

Anna Dressed in Blood

  • Author: Kendare Blake
  • Genre: YA Horror
  • Publication Date: October 17, 2011
  • Publisher: Tor Teen
  • Series: Anna #1

CONTENT WARNING: violence, murder, blood, gore, death of a parent, reference to sexual abuse (off-page)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

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 house she used to call home.

But she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

Horror isn’t generally a genre that I read, but this one came across as what I affectionately term “horror lite,” and fortunately I was right. It’s basically a ghost story, but it goes deeper than that, centering around a young man struggling to form connections and right wrongs from the past.

Cas is a teenager who hunts ghosts, and it’s a professional that he inherited from his father, and its passed down through the generations of Lowood men. He feels a responsibility to take over the job after the death of his father, but running underneath that is his desire to avenge his father’s murder. In order to do so, he works hard to hone his skills. And Anna provides an incredible challenge like none he’s ever seen before.

“If I’m honest with myself, I know that Anna Korlov has gotten into my mind like few ghosts have before her. I don’t know why. There is only one ghost aside from her that has occupied my thoughts like this, that has brought up such a stirring of feeling, and that is the ghost who killed my father.”

But what he hasn’t really taken the time to think about until now is that in his quest to get better, he’s pushed a lot of things to the side. He moves often, and while he attends school, he separates himself from all of the things that most teenagers do. He doesn’t play sports, he doesn’t get attached to anyone. First of all, because there’s no point to get attached to anyone or anything that he’s just going to leave in a few months, but also because his line of work is dangerous. Anyone that he gets close to could get hurt. So it’s basically Cas and his mom and their cat, and he doesn’t even really give anyone else a chance to get close to him. 

“I don’t appreciate the implication that I’m going to hurt someone. Doesn’t she think I’m careful? Doesn’t she know the trouble I go to in order to keep people at arm’s length?”

But something about Thunder Bay changes him. He gets wrapped up in not just the ghost he’s there to hunt, but also some of the people in the town. For the first time, he develops friends, which he is convinced will make his job harder. But what he doesn’t realize is that while this does, initially, make things more difficult, it is ultimately the only way he’ll be able to do what he needs to do. 

I loved the way that this explores not only ghosts but witchcraft. Blake crafts convincing characters and develops believable relationships between them, while also creating villains that are easy to hate and at least a couple of villains that are not only misunderstood but those that I can empathize with. While everything wraps up pretty nearly in this book, I’m curious to see what happens next in the duology and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel!

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 11

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