Series: Anna #1
Published by Tor Teen on October 17th 2011
Genres: Horror, Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
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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. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: 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.
Yet she spares Cas's life.
THIS IS YOUR SPOILER ALERT, CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED
I’m gonna be honest here. I was not expecting much at all from this book. I honestly wasn’t. I was told not to read it before bed. I was told it WILL scare me. I was told, by multiple people, that it is the scariest book I would ever read. No. Just no. This book was written very much with Supernatural in mind I suspect. It read very much like it was riffing on that vibe. I didn’t mind this but it was a little bit of a let down that it was so similar to something that is saturating pop culture so entirely.
I also had some problems with Cas. The main character. Oh my god. He is more whiny and self absorbed than any ghost hunter ever written. And yes I am including Sam Winchester. It was annoying as fuck reading over and over about him being the only one able. Really Cas? Really? You the only speshul snowflake in the world with the ability to kill the dead… uh huh… ego-frickin-tistical much?
The writing in general is very, very good. The use of vulgarity is believable and very true to the life of a teenage boy, at least it is in my experience. What isn’t however is his constant referral to Anna as “my Anna”. I’m sorry, I really am. But I was a teenaged boy, at least I very much hope I was because that would lead to some awkward conversations with the missus, I know teenaged boys… They do not refer to some one as mine in that way.
They just don’t. If they’re attracted to them then it usually runs as far verbally in their mind as “UNFT!” and then there’s mental imagery to rival porn… But seriously… I have never, ever met a boy of that age. Especially one who hunts and moves around a lot, who refers to a female as “my” whatever before actually figuring out how they feel. It’s stupid.
But aside from the whiny ass of an MC, the annoying voice of him at times and the undeniably familiar vibe… I really enjoyed this book. Okay, I might’ve been high on flu meds and running a fever for most of it. But I enjoyed the pop culture references made within the book. I enjoyed the depth and rounded nature of the characters. I loved the Voodoo undertones.
Bust most of all I loved Anna. And for the life of me I cannot tell you why. She was a tour de force all on her own. She wasn’t just a spectre, she was storm in a bottle. Yet on the flip side she was also sweet and innocent and adorable. And of course she wasn’t going to be just another target for our young slayer and his mystical athame. If that were the case then why would there be a series with her name on it? I mean it was fairly obvious that she would change things. I just didn’t figure out just how much she would change thing.
This had all of the makings to be a very, very good YA horror yarn… it started out bloody and tense. It had an eerie feel that added depth to the world building and then there was that night. It was dark. It was bloody… there were pieces of people. And then it petered out. And pretty much of the blood letting that followed in this book happened off page, pretty much until the final chapter and a bit. And it turned into one of the weirdest romantic sub-plots that I have ever read… I mean… she’s dead for fucks sake. What the hell are you expecting? A long and happy relationship? She’s fucking worm food!
As you can guess it irked me a little. But only a little. I was pulled back by the secondary story, the voodoo power playing in the background that was slowly building up to a head. And I mention that, not to spoil anything, honestly I don’t. I mention it because this is the only YA title I have ever read that had a convincingly chilling Obeahman portrayed. At first I was thrown and thought Baron Samedi but the use of him just being an Obeah user who had machinations to become uber ghost seemed more… I want to say believable but I don’t think it’s the right word… but whatever it is it is sinister.
The culmination though does leave the world open wide. There are lots of things that Ms Blake could do with this and I sincerely hope that she does it well. Because if the next book is anything less than stellar then I will be riding with the fury of an angry viking horde. For the head of the person who took a series with such great potential and flushed it down the toilet.
Look what I’m trying to say is that this both is and isn’t a horror story. It both is and isn’t a love story. But what it is though, is very, very good. I liked it a lot. It had flaws that clawed my rating back but overall I would recommend this read. But seriously… Don’t expect to be scared silly because there are honestly scarier episodes of Buffy out there.
Sir, you are not having a great time with the last two you read. Another whiny ass male character! Well, I just got a copy of this sent to me, so I’m going to end up reading and reviewing it at some point. At least, I am glad to note from your review, it is written very well. That’ll make it more bearable. I’ll probably just swear at the kid aloud while reading, but hey, the last couple before Kady Cross were like that, so…comes with the territory.
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@Georgette: Yeah. The whiny tone of this supposed bad-ass was the most annoying thing about it for me lol. Glad you enjoyed the review. Hope you enjoy the book
Hahaha. I know I am not supposed to be amused but I really like this review. It’s so honest but at the same time comprehensive. I’ve been seeing Anna Dressed in Blood a lot for the past year and sadly, I haven’t had the chance to get my hands on it. But every review I’ve read so far has been pushing me to just grab it!
Epic review, Archer!
@Gellie: Thanks Gellie. Even though bits of it annoyed me I still really enjoyed the book. It was an odd feeling. So much annoyance at the MC’s whining but still epic levels of readability for the book as a whole.
This is EXACTLY how I felt about ADiB! I wanted to like it so much more than I did. It didn’t frighten me at all (except for the Obeahman). It reminded me way too much of Supernatural, and Cas annoyed the hell out of me. And yet… and yet… the book is incredibly well-written, and there’s something so weirdly compelling about it, that I can’t wait for the sequel.
@Joan: I know right? It’s one of the most bizarre feelings. On reflection I kinda feel bad about enjoying it so much when the majority of other books with these problems, for example I Hunt Killers, I wouldn’t enjoy as much lol.
I was out of town when you officially joined the crew here, Archer, but I just wanted to say how glad I am to see you on the Cuddlebuggery team! Huzzah! This place is now so awesome I’m going to have to pace myself or risk awesome overload.
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@Rachel Hartman: Thank you Rachel… I feel at home here already.
Great review – I am obsessed with the idea of this book and scared to read it and ruin whatever my mind has decided it will be. I think I will have to pick it up soon. Thanks!
@Elisa: Thanks Elisa
Amanda the Book Slayer
Great Review Archer, as always. I have this one re-rented from the library and plan to get to it soon. The cover reminded me of the Supernatural episode ‘Lady in White’ I believe it was called and that alone made me send it back the first time. I am a chicken what can I say. But between Steph. and you I am going to give it another shot. Steph said she managed through it and doesn’t enjoy horror so I will brave it. I know you didn’t think it was much, but The Restorer was super creepy for me. Hell I can’t even stand Supernatural.
Amanda the Book Slayer recently posted…Are You A Book Slayer? # 2
@Amanda the Book Slayer: I hope you enjoy it. It was enjoyable for the most part, it just lacked that special… something.
I think whiny male characters are a problem in the YA genre overall. Not that I have a problem with whiny males, as long as they go through some kind of character growth. It’s the ones that begin and end whiny that annoy me.
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@Kate C.: Character growth is awesome. But this is just whining for the sake of it
Good review, covers most of what I thought: flawed, but very readable. Not sure I can be bothered with the sequel though. I need to know that it gets better, and in general it seems to have fewer stars than this :-/ (I daren’t read your review, cuz it warns of spoilers!)
One thing I found really jarring in ADIB is although on the whole the prose was very good, a couple of times the voice really popped out at me as obviously the words of an adult woman, not a 17 year old boy. What teenaged boy notices and thinks it worth commenting on the number and type of occasional tables in a room, ferchrissakes? Or the hard wood flooring and rugs? Or describes a cute girl as ‘petite’? That’s such a mum word!
Also, yeah, not scary. The problem is, the first person narrator isn’t scared. So it’s kind of hard for the reader to be :-/
I have also read this book and enjoyed it.
I think you did a great job reviewing it and I agree with you.
It’s not scary, I actually had I feeling I watched Tim Burton’s movie.