Published August 30, 2011.
Cas Lowood has inherited an usual 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. (ARC back blurb)
Apparently the publishing gods were listening to me as I begged, pleaded and whined about getting more YA horror onto the market because ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD certainly delivered! Part Supernatural, part Buffy with a penis (just don’t tell Cas that), part Exorcist, ANNA is both incredibly spooky and touching all at the same time. It grabs the horror and throws it at you in little bursts, never overdoing it but it likes to play at the heartstrings too. It still carries some of that teen relationship schtick that most other YA books have but it’s different and even more unattainable than Buffy and Angel’s tryst. So there’s really something for everyone but just be warned about the gore and spook elements. If you don’ like that stuff, it might not be your bag.
There’s something immediately likable about Cas. He’s not a complainer but he’s not a showboat either. There’s a subtlety to his function that if tipped any other way he’d probably come off as annoying. But Blake does a phenomenal job of keeping him grounded and inherently appealing. He’s got a job that he does. No big deal. He does it and moves on. That’s it. It’s best not to get strings attached to anything because that’s just a hassle. He’s so grounded out in logic that I can’t help but fangirl him. Nearly every move he makes actually makes sense. There was barely a moment in the story where I was reading and disbelieving something he was doing. He followed a natural order to everything that was going on and he really never went against that. Scoffing at ridiculousness need not apply.
I also liked that his mom was a big buddy in the story. Whereas a lot of YA tends to shove parents into the background, ANNA didn’t really do that. Of course the teens did a lot of the goings on and there was some bemoaning of parental worrying on Cas’s part but that’s natural. His mom, and Morfran, weren’t wisps of smoke in the background leaving their children alone. They played active rolls in helping Cas figure out what the deal was and I really liked that. Again, more reality. More elements that actually made sense. Love it.
Carmel (sorry, but that’s an absolutely atrocious name) and Thomas prove good supplements to Cas’s abnormal evenness (because really, such a level-headed character is rare in YA). Carmel played the giggly popular girl well but she’s a basket full of surprises. I ended up really liking her simply because she shattered every preconceived notion I had about her. Thomas didn’t. He lived up to everything I originally thought he was, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like him. He was useful to Cas, and insistent about it, which Cas begrudgingly took at the beginning but Thomas proved himself. Both of these guys showed Cas that he doesn’t have to go it alone. They made him open up his eyes. For someone that was so open to strange and unusual things, Cas ended up being pretty close-minded about a lot of things mundane. I guess that comes with the territory.
I loved the gore simply because it came out of nowhere. It’s not something you really expect in YA so when it popped up it was a total surprise and then I cheered a little. Not because a character got hurt, but because here’s an author that’s unafraid to take that step. How could I not love that? And there were some genuinely freaky moments going on that had me looking over my shoulder. I can’t really like a book more once it does that. That’s pretty much the pinnacle. The horror has done it’s job. It’s freaked me out and, even for a moment, unsettled me. Win.
I can’t wait to read more in Blake’s ANNA series if what I’m going into looks anything like this. YA horror, how nice it is to see you again. I hope you stay for a long, long time and have many, many little horror babies. Please.
Ban Factor: High – With all the talk of voodoo and ghosts and witchcraft and nothing Christian to balance it out, the banners would attack this like Westboro Baptist at a gay pride parade.
I have a finished copy on my hands. You want it? Just fill out the form for your chance to win!
- Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only.
- One entry per person per email address.
- Duplicate entries will be deleted.
- Following my blog is required.
- Giveaway ends November 3rd, EST.
ETA – Just read the press release I found in my giveaway copy and what does Tor compare the book to? Supernatural and Buffy. It’s okay. You can call me awesome for my amazing prophetic abilities.