Cas Lowood has a special skill he inherited from his dead father: Cas kills ghosts. He travels from city to city with his mother, dispatching the dangerous dead to keep them from killing any more of the living. He doesn’t think much of it when he takes the assignment to travel once again in order to rid a town of an especially terrifying legend: Anna Dressed in Blood, the ghost of a teen girl who wears the blood soaked white dress she was murdered in. Something’s different about Anna, though, and Cas finds out that killing her will be much, much more difficult than anything he’s faced before.
Anna Dressed in Blood is an intense and intriguing YA horror debut novel. The main thing I enjoyed about this book was that there were real stakes involved, and characters weren’t necessarily safe. Early in the book, a character that I expected to be a part of the cast for most of the novel was killed off in a gruesome manner. My reaction: yes! (I hope that doesn’t make me sound like too much of a weirdo.) I’m tired of horror novels that bat around with the idea of horror without doing any actual damage to the main characters of the story. By introducing this early death, Blake made me sit up and pay closer attention to the story and world she was creating.
There’s a lot of good creepiness in this book. The ghosts Cas has to exorcise have interesting back stories, and I only wish that there would have been more of them. There is also a voodoo element to the story, which I thought was a nice touch.
One of the high points of Blake’s writing is her character development. Characters don’t fall into ready stereotypes, and Cas grows genuine relationships with those around him. I was kept guessing about people’s true natures and how they would react to situations. Anna was also quite complex: she’s described as a terrifying goddess, but also as a girl who was gravely wronged, and who has remorse for the awful things she’s done.
Something that perplexed me about the writing was the structure of time in the novel. I thought that only a couple of weeks had gone by, but then I learned that it had been months. I didn’t have an accurate sense of the chronology of the story and how much time was progressing between scenes. It isn’t a big deal, but it did throw me off kilter while reading.
This book could have worked as a stand-alone novel, but it is actually the first of a new series. The next book is called Girl of Nightmares, which I’m assuming will clear up the ambiguous ending. I’d also like to see more of Cas’s background, and what exactly happened to his father.