Saturday, July 28, 2012
Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Tags: YA, horror, ghosts
Cas Lowood’s unusual but steady life as ghost-killer, traveling constantly in search for his next task, takes an unexpected turn when he attempts to confront the ghost known as Anna Dressed in Blood. Anna Korlov has apparently violently killed any human who tries to enter her haunted house for the past 50 years…but, for whatever reason, she doesn’t kill Cas. As Cas unravels the dark and disturbing mystery surrounding Anna’s own violent death, and the evil thing that compels her to perform violence, he finds many things in his life turning upside-down, including his former loner status and the path he is slowly but steadily taking to avenge his father’s death by a dangerous ghost.
ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD came highly recommended by lots of different readers. Unfortunately, this strange tale of horror and romance between a human boy and the ghost girl he’s supposed to get rid of was decent, but didn’t blow me away.
Good things first. Cas was a great narrator. He goes about his business in a no-nonsense yet wry manner, which not only makes his narration and adventures enjoyable to read, but also delights readers when his dealings with Anna unexpectedly trip him up.
Unfortunately, Cas’ genuineness was not enough to offset the tired stereotypes and underdeveloped supporting characters. ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD contained too much awesome to be stuffed into a generic high school setting, and yet it was, with the result that there were awkwardly dramatic confrontations with too-idiotic-to-be-real jocks and underwhelmingly catty girls. Blake makes an attempt to add uniqueness and depth to Cas’ friends, but I never felt like they could have had life beyond the page: there was just something off about the way they spoke, kind of like aliens trying to act like real teenagers or something.
Horror is not my favorite genre, so I’m far from the best person to appreciate and judge it; however, I wanted more from this story. I was confused about the mythological and historical basis for Anna’s violent haunting: what cultures or stories was ANNA drawing from to create its version of ghosts and voodoo? What made Cas and his friends so special that they were able to achieve what no one had done before them? The book’s explanations for these and other similar questions I had left me dissatisfied and, ultimately, dispassionate about the story.
Not every book is for every reader, and ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD wasn’t one for me, though it certainly was for a lot of people. If you’re a fan of ghost and horror stories with a tinge of myth-based supernatural concepts, a la Lee Nichols or Laurie Faria Stolarz, give this a whirl. It might be just your thing, though it wasn’t mine.
Laurie Faria Stolarz
Cover discussion: Ohh, I like. It's a creepy combination of realistic and illustrated, and that blend of styles conveys the ghost aspect of this story more than the actual elements in the picture do.
Tor Teen / July 3, 2012 (reprint) / Paperback / 320pp. / $9.99
Personal e-book copy bought for $2.99 on Amazon.