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
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.
Cas Lowood is a ghost hunter who inherited his powers from his father, who died in the act of killing a ghost. Cas and his mother move around to different places based on tips about ghosts, and his latest mission is to kill the ghost of Anna Korlov, or Anna Dressed in Blood. But when he ends up at her house, she bypasses him, and he discovers that he is the only person that Anna has ever not killed.
What follows is a horror story, with a lot of
classic elements done well – haunted houses, voodoo, ghosts, and magic all play a part here, and the paranormal parts were interestingly and uniquely used. Anna’s house was particularly well described and I liked how much it played a part in the atmosphere of the book.
The classic YA tropes of being an outsider, being special because of a certain power were laid bare here – maybe a little too bare? While I enjoyed the story, it was quite predictable. It wasn’t hard for me to figure out what was going on or what was going to happen. I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t more twists and turns.
In particular, the major romantic plotline of the book was a serious case of insta-love. I don’t want to give a lot away, but it was a big part of the book, and I just didn’t feel like that
relationship had payoff at all. The two characters spoke to each other two times and it seemed like they were already in love. It was hard for me to believe in, and because of that, I was never fully immersed in the story.
I think a big part of my disengagement with the story was the writing – especially the voices of the characters. I never felt like any of the characters had really distinct voices – everyone just seemed like an extension of one voice. While this works for teens who want to put themselves in the characters’ shoes, it made the story a lot less believeable for me.
Anna’s voice also didn’t really work for me; her way of speaking felt anachronistic. She talked like a regular teenager, and given that she was a Finnish immigrant from 1958, it just didn’t feel authentic. One of the first things Anna says to Cas is that he hasn’t shown her all his best “moves” yet. I felt like a girl who died in 1958 might not have that grasp of slang already.
Overall, I did enjoy Anna Dressed in Blood and I felt like it was a good
Halloween book. The gory elements worked and I appreciated the setting of Thunder Bay, Ontario (Canada represent!). I will probably pick up the second book, Girl of
Nightmares, just because I’d like to know what happens next – it doesn’t
quite end on a cliffhanger, but there are definitely loose threads that
I want tied up!
Kick-Ass Secondary Characters: I loved the secondary characters in the story. Cas’ mom, his
new friend Thomas, Thomas’ grandfather Morfran, and cool girl Carmel had great dialogue and really made the story come more alive for me and made it feel very much
like a teen experience.
The Final Word:
I’m usually an incredible wimp when it comes to horror, but this one
wasn’t so much scary as gory occasionally. For those of you who are
interested in reading but don’t like horror, I would say that this is
like horror-lite – both in the story and the writing. It’s a fun read, and it’s one that you can read quickly – if you haven’t read a scary book yet this October, this might be the one for you.
Have you read ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD or the sequel, GIRL OF NIGHTMARES? Did the voice or story work for you? If not, have you read any Halloween or scary reads lately? Let me know in the comments!