I have mentioned before how much I love ghost stories, which make up a large portion of my summer reading. I think it has something to do with discovering Christopher Pike and Mary Downing Hahn’s The Doll House Murders at the library the summer I was ten. Now when the weather turns hot, I crave something scary. Anna Dressed in Blood delivered everything I wanted and more.
Cas is a ghosthunter. Armed with a powerful ancestral knife, he hunts ghosts who kill humans, a job that takes him all over the US and now, to Thunder Bay, Ontario*, in search of a ghost known as Anna Dressed in Blood. There, Cas infiltrates his high school’s inner circle, lead by beautiful Carmel, who lead him directly to Anna’s house. But Anna is unlike any ghost he has faced before. She appears to Cas in two forms: a the young girl on her way to a dance in 1958, warm and intelligent, and the writhing, demonic Anna Dressed in Blood, her white dress stained red with blood and capable of tearing a man in half. Cas finds himself drawn to Anna like no other ghost or living person before. As the murders get worse, Cas has no choice but to enlist the help of Carmel and Thomas, an irritating but well-intentioned telepath.
Reading this book felt a little bit like stepping into the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in the best possible way. You have a somewhat reluctant but efficient slayer (Cas) who falls in love with the most powerful ghost he has ever met and is doomed to kill (Anna). The slayer is befriended by a meek but loyal witch (Thomas), and there’s even have a Cordelia type (Carmel), who is drawn into their circle. There are lots of differences of course, and Anna Dressed in Blood is much more than a Buffy rip-off, but fans of the show will definitely appreciate the world Kendare Blake has created.
Blake is an assured writer who is comfortable enough in the genre to take some interesting liberties. This is a ghost story that could also easily be classified as horror. Blake’s style is very visual and there are a number of gory scenes I’m not likely to forget soon. Anna Dressed in Blood, in her more demonic form, is especially memorable. Not to mention that her moniker is the best ghost name of all time. It’s probably very wrong to wish she was a real ghost story, but a small part of me wishes she was, the same part of me who played Bloody Mary at sleepovers in grade 6.
Our hero Cas is a bit of a bad-boy, ne’er-do-well type, and he knows it. He uses his dark looks and appeal to charm his way into the hearts of girls to find out the information he needs about the ghosts he hunts. He is devoted to his craft and his witch mother, and tries desperately to keep other people from getting drawn into his dangerous lifestyle. Something about his voice (defeated smart-ass with a heart of gold) reminded me of Cassel in Holly Black’s Curse Workers trilogy, another book set in our world with a layer of supernaturality infused for maximum reading enjoyment. Fans of Shadowed Summer for Saundra Mitchell, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson and of course, Buffy fans, will love this book.
AND there is going to be a sequel!
Anna Dressed in Blood is available now in hard cover from Tor Teen Books.
*It’s a small thing, but I loved that this book was set in Thunder Bay, even though the author is American. I suppose it’s a very Canadian trait to be flattered and surprised that someone OTHER than a Canadian would choose a Canadian setting, but then again I’m a very Canadian girl.