Friday, 30 September 2011

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Black

Series: Anna Dressed in Blood
Genre: Young Adult >Thriller/Horror
Publisher: Tor Teen/Hachette AUS
Release Date: October 2011
ISBN: 9781408319444
Cover love? It's so hauntingly gorgeous, with a dark and spooky atmosphere that suits the story perfectly.
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So 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. 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: 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.

But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life.

I confess: I have never, ever read horror before. Back in the Grade 2 days, I had a tentative peek into a Goosebump novel, and it practically scared the crap out of me, so since then, I've always avoided horror like the plague. But Anna Dressed in Blood was so freaking amazing that I'm crying, begging on my knees for more from Kendare Black, and *gasp* yes, more horror!

Theseus Cassio 'Cas' Lowood is one badass character, so fierce and brave. He descends from a long line of ghost hunters, all committed to ridding the world of ghosts who have stayed behind after death, out for revenge. After his father was brutally murdered by a ghost that he'd set out to kill, Cas devotes himself to training and slaying the dead, honing his skills in the hopes that one day, he can return to exact revenge on the monstrous being that took his father's life. 

As a professional ghost slayer, Cas gets called to Thunder Bay to investigate the mystery of a particularly mysterious and violent ghost that the locals call "Anna Dressed in Blood". For the past 60 years, everyone who has dared to enter her house is torn apart, ripped to shreds. But when Cas faces this terrifying "goddess of death", he discovers that he's finally met his match - a ghost he can't destroy. But for some reason, she decides to spare his life.

Intrigued, Cas can't help but be drawn back to Anna's haunted house, again and again, attempting to discover the mystery behind her death, the reason why she is unlike other ghosts he's encountered. Because beneath the otherworldly and powerful exterior is a beautiful and fragile girl trapped by her dark past...

Kendare Black writes a spellbinding tale, entwining witchcraft and ghost mythology, tradgedy and hope, fear and adoration, until the reader is just as enraptured by Anna as Cas is. I adored so many things about this book - the gentle but fierce prose, the numerous twist and turns within the plot. My one lament is that the side characters aren't developed as well. I could sense that there was more to them, but I'll probably have to wait until Girl of Nightmares (Anna Dressed in Blood #2) coming out in 2012, to find out.

Black doesn't hold back on the violence or the gripping themes either - this is a raw and powerful book that will probably scare the living daylights out of you, but in a fantastic way that makes you hungry for more.  It kept me up well past midnight, on the one hand feeling too afraid and nervous to keep on reading, but also too creeped out and entangled in this beautiful and dark tale to bear putting it down. And when I finally finished, I just lay there in bed, thinking about it all night. My advice: read it in broad daylight, but for the brave looking for a good scare, I dare you to read it in the dead silence of the night.

Parental Corner: Violence (heavy), sexual content (minor), profanity (occasional)