Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake – Advance Review

Book Jacket:

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.

You can read an excerpt here.


As it turns out, you can judge this book by its cover – and let’s just take a moment to appreciate the fantastic cover art. Honestly, it was the cover that reeled me in and I am so very glad that it did, because Anna Dressed in Blood is an all around lovely surprise – gory and sweet, chilling and fun, and yes, even romantic. Fresh and scary, this book kept me glued, cover to cover, and delivered on every front.

First and foremost – the voice. I absolutely fell in love with Cas’ narration – he is hilarious, in a dry almost British sort of way, not to mention smart, with just the right touch of authentic teen boy obliviousness. Cas made me realize what a rare thing it is these days to have a guy narrating a paranormal YA, and I was gobsmacked by how effortlessly Blake was able to dodge the trope mire by simple virtue of letting her guy tell his own story (in hilariously sarcastic fashion). Let’s face it, angst tends to permeate these kind of stories, not to mention self-indulgent recollections of dark and brooding eyes, and it was such a joy and relief to NOT read that story for the eighty eighth hundred time. And I especially loved the sly tongue in cheek fun Blake had at her genre’s expense – here’s an excerpt, so you can what I mean:

I could go and try to insta-bond with the lead jock, I suppose, but I’ve never been good at that. My Dad and I never watched sports or played catch. I can wrestle the dead all day long, but touch football might knock me unconscious. Girls, on the other hand, have always come easy. I don’t know why that is, exactly. Maybe it’s the outsider vibe and a well-placed brooding look.

And that humor is so very, very necessary in a horror story, because it’s what gets us through the dark and disturbing parts – and oh, does this book ever have dark and disturbing parts! A horror story from the classic Gothic ghost story school, Anna Dressed In Blood is definitely not afraid to spook you – and this book got me good. I like to think I’m pretty tough when it comes to gore and mangling – hey, I watch Bones – but this book genuinely sent a frisson up my spine, and got my gut a-churning. Blake manages to perfectly balance taut and creepy with engrossing, and like a fish on a hook, this story will well and truly reel you in. I wouldn’t even particularly call myself a horror fan, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

But never fear, this book isn’t only about dark things that go bump in the night – there is a genuinely sweet side to this story. There is a romance, and frankly it’s adorably genuine – not to mention Blake brings a deft touch of originality to the proceedings. Let’s just say it’s a romance that is very easy to fall in love with. I also very much enjoyed Cas’ relationship with his Mom – it was what hooked me into his character from the start, and it also really grounded the story for me. It’s lovely to have a parental figure be in on the paranormal secrets and shenanigans, and part of the story for a change. Cas’ Mom was largely on the sidelines of what was going on, but she made her presence felt in a good way.

On the plot front, I have no complaints – this story is well paced and intelligently put together, with a compelling mystery that comes together wonderfully at the end. Confession: I’m utterly sick of books that try to manufacture the need for a sequel via anticlimactic endings and huge questions left hanging for no reason other than to justify another book – but this is most definitely not that kind of book. This is a book that absolutely finishes the story and still leaves its readers begging for more, no trickery or sleight of hand required – and yes, I am definitely hoping that Blake has a sequel or five up her sleeve…

There is nothing not to like about Anna Dressed In Blood – it has heart, soul, and blood. If you’re suffering from paranormal YA fatigue – if a girl being “inexplicably drawn” to a dark and brooding boy makes you want to bang your head against a wall – this is exactly the book you need.

Byrt Grade: A

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Kirkus Reviews (starred review) says:

Abundantly original, marvelously inventive and enormous fun, this can stand alongside the best horror fiction out there. We demand sequels.

Reading Teen says:

There was a great mix of everything in this book from the witchcraft, romance, blood & gore, to the sarcastic humor from Cas, that had me laughing out loud from time to time. Anna Dressed In Blood is one of a kind and could very well be a stand alone book, no extreme cliffhanger at the end. Read this one for sure… Only if you have a strong stomach!

Parajunkee says:

I was won over by the characters, blown away by the plot and enchanted by the progression. I did not expect this novel…Anna Dressed In Blood needs to be experienced and Ms. Blake needs to hurry up and write more because I am hooked and I need my next fix.