Saturday, March 31, 2012

Anna Dressed in Blood

by Kendare Blake, 316 pages

Cas is a ghost hunter, secretly tracking down violent spirits who make deadly trouble for the living. Having inherited his calling from his father, who was killed on a hunt in New Orleans, he uses his blade to send them on to wherever it is they go and then moves on with his worry-ridden white-witch mother to a new town, a new school, and a new ghost. When he gets a tip about the ghost of young woman who's been disappearing runaways and vagrants up in Canada, Cas's gut instincts tell him he has to go and that she'll be good practice for when he confronts the most powerful spirit yet--his father's still-at-large murderer. But he's unprepared for both the dead girl's strength and his own weakness. As unexpected, gruesome deaths pile up on his conscience, Cas will have to reexamine his motives, his enemies, and his till-now isolated existence.

I quite liked this teen horror / romance and its premise, although it loses a little of its edge and originality towards the end. Anna, the ghost in question, is startlingly scary (and violent!) early on. And Cas has a convincing, jaded-for-his-age outlook that's nicely set up from the get-go. I had a harder time buying into their chemistry, though, as the story moves along and they both start to come in from the extremes toward a more conventional melodramatic young adult romance pairing. There was one element I thought would be relevant during the climax but which was never brought up again, so I'm wondering if it will matter later or if I just read too much into it and made things up myself (perfectly possible). While the main plot wraps up at the end, things are clearly left open for the sequel (Girl of Nightmares, out in August 2012), which I will happily read. I think a few more scenes or chapters showing how and why the characters soften up as much as they do would have helped me believe in their professed bonds (and that goes for Cas and his friends, too), but it's still a nice creepy read and come October this would be an easy sell to any older teens looking to add some edgy darkness to their spooky romance reading pile.

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