Publisher: Tor Teen (2011)
Format: Hardcover | 316 pages
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy, Young Adult, Horror
WARNING: Contains minor SPOILERS!Description (Goodreads): "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."
"Anna Dressed in Blood" is one of those books that are ridiculously difficult to review. Mainly because I not only had high expectations but I actually liked it. But that doesn't mean I didn't notice some problems with plot and character development. And so I am a bit at a loss on how to give an opinion.
This book tells the story of Cas Lowood, a young ghost hunter. These ghosts, however can do a lot more than just rattle chains; they can take some kind of corporeal form and actually interfere with the living. So, since Cal has a special gift that allows him to "kill the dead" (or more accurately send them somewhere else) he travels around seeking ghosts who mean harm to people. When one of his contacts tells him about a particularly vicious ghost, Cal just knows he has to take the job.
As he encounters Anna, dubbed "Anna Dressed in Blood" by the locals, he understands that she's no ordinary ghost. His journey will bring answers about his past but also more questions about who he really is, about his powers and about the righteousness of his work.
If anyone asked me for a quick opinion on this book I'd say that it was good. Pretty good, actually. It has great pace, most of the time, it has some horror (it is rather creepy sometimes) and interesting protagonists. So would I recommend it? Sure. If you like action, mystery and a bit of Supernatural-style horror, "Anna Dressed in Blood" is the book for you.
But is it very good? Like "Chime" good? Not really. Oh, the story is definitely engaging. It makes you want to keep reading, it keeps you on the edge of your seat and Anna is a very intriguing and multi-layered character. However... Blake wasn't completely able to step away from the usual cliches that plague the genre [of YA supernatural fiction].
The romance was badly developed and unrealistic (it bordered on insta-romance, yuck) and there were some inconsistency problems. The one that bugged me the most was the fact that Cas' mother seemed perfectly okay with her son following in his father's footsteps when it was exactly his father's job that got him killed. It just didn't make sense to me. I can see why the author wrote it like that, sure, but I still don't feel like it was very realistic behavior.
Cal himself was another problem. He isn't particularly stereotyped as far as male protagonists go; but he didn't read like a boy. Probably because the book was written by a woman. Always a risk, writing a male character and frankly I don't think the author pulled it off very well.
Overall: "Anna Dressed in Blood" does stand out in this genre (which is praise-worthy indeed) and I really enjoyed reading it. But it was not without flaws. Recommended to fans of supernatural stories who aren't afraid of a few (seriously) creepy scenes.