title: Anna Dressed in Blood
author: Kendare Blake
buy it: Amazon Goodreads B&N
rating: 4/5 [in the genre] or 7/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
recommended for: Fans of Jeannine Garsee (The Unquiet), the TV show Supernatural, old fashioned ghost stories, and light romance.
My Ratings Explained
the basicsI was fantastically excited about this book. It didn't quite meet my exuberant expectations, but it delivered plenty. The story is a fun, Supernatural -style ghost hunt. Boy's father hunted ghosts. Boy's father is killed by ghost. Boy takes up the mantle and hunts ghosts. You start right in the action, and Blake doesn't waste any time getting you into Cas' world--or the Anna plot. Cas wants to kill Anna. Then it gets more complicated, in ways that I didn't expect. Cas can be an annoying, self-absorbed I-go-alone guy, but what was fun for me was seeing him change and grow. There's a romance that isn't insta, friendships that felt genuine and relatable, and Cas' mom gets involved too, which is a far cry from the I-must-leave-all-loved-ones plots I'm used to. The coolest part is Blake's ghost and demon mythology. You get voodoo, Wicca, and a sort of dark blood magic that combine for some neat baddies. Not a perfect book, but very enjoyable. I will be reading the sequel.
plot . 5/5The plot starts you right in the action with a ghost and doesn't let up. Even when there's not a lot of ghost hunting, everything is moving forward. Either something is happening with Cas' investigation into Anna or his relationships are developing in important ways. Blake doesn't show mercy, either. Plenty of blood is spilt. It makes it realistic, rather than the dumbed-down horror stories where people miraculously escape because the hero never screws up. Cas screws up plenty, and it adds to his character. The ending was also great for a first novel in a series. Satisfying on its own, but also promising more.
concept . 4/5Ghost hunters: not super original. Yeah, we know that. Blake takes it a step farther with the magical element. She adds in voodoo and Wicca to add color and depth to her supernatural world. I really enjoyed reading about the rituals and some of the demon creatures. There's also a mystery. Your typical find-out-how-the-ghost-was-killed mystery--but it becomes much less typical when you find out how. I won't spoil it, but it was a great surprise and I thought it turned a typical plot into something more unique.
characters . 4/5Cas was a hard sell for me. He was just so arrogant, a trait that hits me the wrong way. However, he wasn't a badly written character. You can dislike a character but still find them realistic. That's the way I felt about Cas. As the story progressed, my feelings for him changed as I saw him change. What Blake did well with the other characters was give them roles that weren't flimsy or merely supporting, and twist some expectations. Carmel was not the prissy cheerleader I was fearing. Thomas was deeper than your average nerd. Cas' mom was Wiccan, not only an underrepresented role but also one that enriched her personality. It clearly wasn't thrown in just to make her interesting.
style . 4/5There's nothing particularly beautiful or special about the style. It was polished, succinct, and clear. It's told in Cas' voice, which means that you get a lot of teenage-boy speak. I thought it was done well, but I don't have much to gush over either.
mechanics . 5/5Everything was well polished. You don't get a lot of extra passages or unnecessary language.
take home messageA fun ghost hunt with extra layers of magic, romance, and strong friendships.
Note: I purchased this copy. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.