Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake is a breath of fresh air into the current young adult fiction market, offering readers a unique romance story with a gripping sense of horror. It is unique to anything else I’ve ever read, and I actually felt compelled to read this book in one sitting, barely taking a break from the pages.
The novel follows the story of Thesius Cassio Lowood, better known as Cas, who is a ghost hunter, seeking out vengeful spirits and dispatching them to the afterlife with his athame blade. He has inherited the profession and the blade from his father, who was murdered by a particularly violent spirit, and Cas fights ghosts in order to become strong enough to avenge his father’s death. His ‘job’ results in constant moves for him and his mother, never becoming settled in one place or making friends, let alone falling in love.
One of his tip-offs leads him to Thunder Bay, Ontario, to hunt the ghost known as Anna Dressed in Blood, a girl murdered in 1958 on her way to her high school prom. She had her throat cut, with her white dress being drenched in blood, becoming destined to haunt the old Victorian boarding house where she once lived. Whoever ventures into the house is never seen again, suffering a horrific murder at the hands of Anna. She is the strongest ghost that Cas has ever come up against, so will this be a fight that he is destined to lose?
Cas Lowood undergoes a brilliant display of character development throughout the novel, starting off as an overly independent individual who doesn’t want to make friends for fear of involving them in his dangerous ghost hunting. The fact that he and his mother move around constantly means that it is easier for Cas to not make any concrete ties to any particular place, simply moving from one hunt to the next. However, there is something about this particular hunt that draws Cas in from the first moment he receives the tip off with her name written in blood.
Then I’m driving through dark streets under the light of a growing moon. I know where I’m going, even though I can’t remember deciding to do it.
He is drawn to Anna, and it is clear from the moment he steps foot into the house that there is a connection between them, with Cas being the first person that Anna is unable to kill. She is a haunted soul, evil conflicting with good, with an increased level of power compared to the other ghosts that Cas has faced. The murders she carries out are truly horrific and brutal, but she shows a softer, more human side to Cas, as an innocent girl who had her life unfairly ripped away from her. She is struggling to control her murderous side, seeking an escape from the evil side that possesses her and putting her trust in Cas to save her.
Blake has created a plot full of twists and turns, wrapping up the majority of loose ends with surprising revelations. Cas’s friends, Carmel and Thomas, also undergo a significant level of development considering that Cas is the main focus of the story, with the three becoming firm friends. I also loved how the romance plotline wasn’t conventional, as it is cleverly hinted at throughout but Cas doesn’t realise it until quite far along the novel. The ending was truly heartbreaking, especially as I’d been so pulled in to Cas and Anna’s story, and I will definitely be reading the sequel to find out the continuation of their romance.
Overall this book was brilliant, and I’d advise readers to not be put off by it’s YA tag, as it really does appeal to a wider readership. ‘Anna Dressed in Blood’ is definitely going to remain on my bookshelf for a long time to come, and I can see myself re-reading it multiple times!
This book was absolutely wonderful, a beautifully crafted horror and romance rolled into one that gripped me until the end. The characters are well-crafted, and I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a character quite like Anna. I can’t wait for the next book in the series because this book really took me by surprise, and it has a beautiful cover, what’s not to love!
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- Anna Dressed in Blood
- Girl of Nightmares
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