Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

13 January, 2012 Reviews 10 comments

Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare BlakeAnna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Series: Anna #1
Published by Tor Teen on August 30th 2011
Pages: 316
Genres: Horror, Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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two-half-stars

Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story...

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual 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 she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

Sometimes you read books that are visibly bad. So bad, in fact, that they make you want to throw yourself head first out a window, but you keep on reading and reading. You might even feel yourself losing your will to live about halfway through. But somehow, by the end of the book, you end up liking it anyway because it entertained you.

The badness was just that entertaining. Then, there are other books that are really good books, but just do nothing for you. Anna Dressed in Blood was the latter for me. There was nothing wrong with this book. It’s just that ghost books and I don’t get along. I typically stay away from only two paranormal creatures: ghosts and zombies. I probably would have never picked this book up on my own, but I figured I’d give Anna Dressed in Blood a shot for two reasons: 1) It came highly recommended to me from several reviewers and 2) The last time I read a zombie book (The Forest of Hands and Teeth) I really enjoyed it. So I was hoping to have a similar experience. Unfortunately, I didn’t.

The three biggest issues I had with the book:

Cas

For the most part I did like him, but in the beginning I found him to be a bit conceited. When he first arrives in Thunder Bay, Ontario he walks around the school like he’s way too cool to be there. To his credit, I guess he really is. I mean, he kills ghosts for a living. But the way those girls just fawned over him, like he was some Grecian god, was just a little over the top.

I make my way to her table, seeing eyes growing wider as I do. Ten or so other girls probably just developed instantaneous crushes on me, because they see that Carmel likes me.

Then there was the issue with him being the only one able to kill ghosts. He kept repeating, “I’m the only one who can do this” and I kept asking, “Oh, yeah? Why? Why, Cas? What makes you so speshul?” Yes, I realize he comes from a long line of ghost busters hunters, but why his family? What makes his bloodline different from anyone else? I needed background info and I never got it.

Anna
Anna Dressed in Blood. I was told to read this book with the lights on. Usually, I scare very easily. I wasn’t scared one bit while reading. At first, when Cas “runs into” Anna, I was thinking, “Uh, oh. It’s about to go down. And for a minute it did. She tore someone in half! I was shocked and even more shocked that I liked it. I was starting to think that everyone who recommended me this book was on to something. Anna. Oh, Anna. Why couldn’t you remain scary?
This is what I wanted from you:

I wanted you to run around angry, strike some fear in people’s hearts, make me afraid of the dark for a few nights, tear some shit up.

But this is what I got instead:

For some odd reason you didn’t have the urge to hurt Cas, which is never explained. Again, why is this kid so speshul?

The Romance
This is honestly where the book started to lose me. Killer vindictive girl running around killing people? I can handle that. Cas going all “goo-goo eyes” over a dead girl? Yeah, um…I didn’t work for me. But who am I to judge? If Cas likes it when Anna makes her eyes go black, her veins crawl up her arms, her deep, neck wound opening up to create her flowing blood dress, calling her “My Anna”, then that is totally his business.  I just didn’t see where that relationship was supposed to be headed. Then they made out on the front porch of her possessed house and all I could think was, “Ewwww…”  It was different, I’ll give Blake that, but it just didn’t work for me.

Other things that bothered me:
I did not understand the mythology behind Cas’ knife and the villain. It went straight over my head. I felt maybe that part could have been explained better. However, I suppose it’s entirely possible that my little, simple brain could not grasp the complex explanation given. Maybe.
Cas’ mother being so accepting of her son’s profession. If your husband is killed while ghost hunting, wouldn’t you try everything you could to have him not go down the same road?
Thomas’ grandfather says he wanted Cas originally to kill Anna because she was acting different. I thought that was going to be significant to the plot, but we never found out why her behavior had initially changed.
I took issue how the kids in the story had so little empathy for their friends who were killed. When oneteen dies, Will makes up some half-assed story about him walking home alone (bold is mine):

“We tell the cops that we drove around for a while. Then Mike got mad about Carmel and Cas and got out of the truck. None of us could stop him. He said he was going to walk home, and since it wasn’t that far away, we didn’t think anything of it. When he didn’t show at school today, we figured that he was hung over.”

But then when the police question Cas and Carmel a few days later (I’ve taken his name out due to spoilers)…

You are aware that…lived at least ten miles from the area you’re talking about,” Officer Roebuck said. “No, I didn’t know,” I reply. “We tried to stop him,” Carmel pipes up.

Now, I’m not sure if that inconsistency was on purpose, but Will is supposed to be this guy’s best friend. He wouldn’t notice that the story he made up was off? Most of the time in the book it felt like the kids were too busy about getting blamed for a crime that they never took time to care that someone was murdered.

Last but not least: The cat. That part really made me angry.

Things I liked:
1. I thought Carmel and Cas were going to end up together. I was happy to see Blake didn’t go for that very easy trope.
2. Anna’s story was very sad and made it easy to be sympathetic towards her.
3. Never saw the villain coming. He was confusing, but unpredictable.
All in all, I would still recommend this book to other people because the biggest reason why I didn’t love it was because I just don’t like ghosts. *shrug*

Steph Sinclair

Steph Sinclair

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
I'm a bibliophile trying to make it through my never-ending To-Be-Read list, equal opportunity snarker and fangirl, YA Books Central editor and co-blogger here at Cuddlebuggery. Find me on GoodReads.
Steph Sinclair
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10 Responses to “Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake”

  1. Sam

    Oh no! I wish you could have liked this more! It actually scared me quite a bit, but that might just be due to the fact I am a total wimp. 😛 Still, I enjoyed reading your review! 🙂

    Hope your next read is better. 🙂

    Sam @ Realm of Ficton

    • cuddlebuggery

      Yeah, I really wish I could have loved it with everyone else, but I might be willing to try out the sequel!

  2. Radiant_Shadows

    Lol Anna was kind of like Casper with Cas for some unknown reason – that was something I remember taking issue with as well. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it more – gripes aside, I really enjoyed the book.

    • cuddlebuggery

      I think it's because I went into the book with previous bias with regards to ghosts. Like I said, it's actually a really good and I can totally see why others really enjoyed it.

  3. Amanda

    I agree with you on the whole ‘love’ part. It was the biggest minus point for me. I wish Blake had stayed away from turning the story into a ‘love-thing’ 🙂 Nice and honest review you got there!

  4. Lydia

    I love ghost stories, so this one worked well for me but yeah – I had a few of the same issues.  It’s fun reading this review after so much time has passed.

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