Monday, September 10, 2012
Cas’s life has never been ordinary. He and his mother move from place to place, following rumours and whispers of violent hauntings. When he finds the ghosts; he moves in and kills them.
He has never encountered anyone like Anna Dressed in Blood. A powerful ghost lingering in the Victorian house she once called home and surrounded by all of the people she’s killed; she is what Cas has been looking for. An opponent worthy of him.
What he doesn’t count on are the people from his new school insisting on helping him. And he doesn’t count on Anna. Tangled up in curses, still wearing the bloodied white dress that she had been murdered in, she is connected to him in ways that neither of them could have envisaged.
There wasn’t enough time to read Anna Dressed in Blood the night I bought it. I had work the next day and had to show at least some signs of coherency. So, of course, I peeked at the first chapter. Then the next. Responsibility flew out the window and more chapters ensued. I woke up late, missed my bus and wandered around like a zombie at work the next day.
It was worth it.
Half-way into August, I can honestly say that so far this is the best novel I have read this year. This review, I am ashamed to say, will mostly consist of me squealing and telling everyone to buy Anna. Selfishly, because the more people who buy this the more likely Kendare Blake is to write more books. I desperately need more.
The characters Blake has created in Anna have a life and vitality of their own. They play off one another, each with their own goals that somehow work together. None of them are perfect, which makes their shining moments all the more brilliant. Cas, the main character, can lean towards arrogance. Killing ghosts is a higher calling that he thinks only he can answer, and he doesn’t like the idea of having anyone there to help him even when he needs it. He’s overconfident, sometimes too sure of his own abilities; but he’s also very sure of the abilities of the people around him, which balances it out.
Anna, too, was brilliantly realised. She’s powerful and she knows it. Her strength is something that she never apologises for and never backs down from. The fact that she owns her power and makes her own choices is something that I love as much as I love the fact that Cas acknowledges and respects her strength, both physically and mentally.
Usually I’m put off by unrealistic romances but, while the romance here did seem rushed, it also made sense on a rational level. The characters, while very different, complement each other in all the ways necessary. They both have unconventional lives and pasts that most people couldn’t understand. Their moral ground and ability to take responsibility for their actions puts them on even footing as well; making the romantic plot-line believable.
Timing was perfect with the plot and pacing of Anna. From the first chapter, the story drags readers in, refusing to release them even after the last page has been turned. The momentum of the novel is very natural, each previous scene leading up to the next and whether it’s action or character interaction holding readers, there are no points of the novel where my interest flagged.
The antagonist was the only thing that let the plot down. While he is central to the story and to Cas’ personal journey, he arrives quite late. As a villain he is horrifically creepy, but there is a definite shift in atmosphere with his arrival. With so much of a plot to explore even without him, it felt as though his character would be better utilised if he was introduced in the beginning of the second book.
Anna Dressed in Blood fully embraces some of the ghost story traditions while adding fresh twists that will delight ghost story lovers and YA fantasy lovers alike. Darker than an average teen read, it still has glimpses of hope bright enough to light the way. For anyone who likes Holly Black, this one is not to be missed.
Anna Dressed in Blood – Kendare Blake
Orchard (June 10, 2012)