A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{October 29, 2011}   Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Plot: 10 years ago, Cas’ father was killed by a vengeful ghost. Cas has since taken on his athame and his calling as a ghost hunter in hopes of avenging him. He and his mother travel from city to city on the heels of the murderous undead. Cas is good at what he does but in Thunder Bay, he may have met his match. Anna was killed on her way to a dance over 50 years ago, her throat slit and her white dress stained red with her blood. Now she tears all those who enter her house in half with her bare hands. Only she doesn’t kill Cas and he doesn’t really want to kill her.

Halloween is fast approaching and that can only mean one thing: horror novels! I was very disappointed by my selection last year which wasn’t the least bit scary but Anna Dressed in Blood exceeded all my expectations.

Blake makes ghost hunting eerie and viceral. I had shivers down my spine more than once. Scariest of all is Anna: her death and her curse are bloody and horrific. It says something about Blake’s skill with characters that Anna is nonetheless sympathetic and likable. In fact, all her characters are great from Cas, his witchy mother, his mean cat and his very British mentor to Thomas the nerdy, nervous witch and Carmel, the surprisingly smart and kind “queen bee” of Cas’s new school. I had some concerns that the romance between Cas and Anna might spoil the horror, but there was no need to worry. Their love certainly makes Cas’ job harder but it never changes what Anna has and can do. When you think about it, it is more tragic than sweet that Cas has so distanced himself from the human world that the person he feels closest to is dead.

Besides, the romance is not truly the focus. This is a book about ghosts and Blake not only delivers but she keeps raising the stakes, bring us scarier and more dangerous situations. Even when she brings us to what seems like the climactic point, Anna’s “exorcism”, and you think it can only go down hill from there, Blake turns it up a notch again. Ultimately though, the scariest things in the book are not undead or supernatural but rather the horrible things that people do to each other. A great spooky read.

Also, as a wiccan myself, I must say that I liked the way that Cas’ mother and her beliefs are addressed, not as something strange and supernatural, nor as something crazy but as something that she believed in. It can be hard, in fantasy, to separate religious or spiritual kinds of witchcraft from Harry Potter style magic and I think Blake does a pretty good job of it.

Finally, the title and cover are amazing, very evocative. They truly do justice to this great book.

Anna Dressed in Blood could easily stand on its own but I was pleased to learn that there will be a sequel, eventually: Girl of Nightmares.

P.S. Was I the only one who thought of Maureen Johnson’s Name of the Star when Cas mentioned the ghost in London killing like Jack the Ripper?

Challenges: 2011 Debut author challenge (5)


I am so, so looking forward to reading this one. Thanks for the review. And…love the cover!

[…] of Nightmares is the sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood. Blake’s first novel took my breath away: she gave me both an chilling ghost story and a […]

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