Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake – Advance Review

Book Jacket:

It’s been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can’t move on.

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live–not walk around half dead. He knows they’re right, but in Cas’s eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he’s seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he’s asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong…these aren’t just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn’t know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn’t deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it’s time for him to return the favor.

You can read an excerpt here.


Terrifying, homicidal, and sweet – how can you resist a ghost like Anna?

Cas, Anna, and the gang are back for a second round of murder, mayhem and mystery, and while I do think Anna Dressed in Blood is the scarier book of the two – and I’ll admit it does remain my favorite – Girl of Nightmares makes for the perfect ending to Anna’s story.

Now Cas may be the narrator of these books, but they really do belong to Anna. She remains largely in the background for the majority of this story, but she is an ever present specter, the raison d’être of Cas’ journey. I love how Kendare demonstrates the horror of Anna’s plight, and how hard Kendare makes Cas struggle to save his ghost-girl. I suspect this story will only really, fully work for those who have read the first book, because this plot unabashedly rests on the relationship between Cas and Anna – and if you don’t already care for these two, this story will lose some of its power – but for those who are vested in this couple, this book is pretty much the ultimate pay-off for their romance. Girl of Nightmares proves without a shadow of a doubt how much these two mean to each other, how far they’re willing to go for each other, and it’s really, really moving – and wow did this book get me good in the end.

Of course when you’re a Cas/Anna shipper such as myself, you do pretty much have to hate the new female character, Jestine – who is clearly a quasi-new-love-interest for Cas – on sight. Yes, I understand why she’s important to the larger picture of the story, but all in all her just felt a little too conveniently staged, to be honest. I found myself getting ahead of the story by dint of her very presence – the minute she showed up, I had a pretty good idea what Kendare was setting up, where she was going – and I kind of wish either Jestine hadn’t shown up at all, or the story had shaded her to be more a villain and less a ridiculously attractive ally. It just felt a little too…pat, a little too neat, a little too let’s-tie-off-this-package-with-a-bow. To be honest, I just don’t think this story needed a consolation love-interest.

But as for the rest of Cas’ crew, I really loved the chance to spend more time with them, particularly Carmel and Thomas. I love how smart they both are, how Carmel is the antithesis of the popular-girl stereotype and how Thomas is so authentically himself. I particularly enjoyed how the relationships between the three of them became strained and warped by the dangers of Cas’ lifestyle, and how the toll of hunting the things that go bump in the night played out so strongly between the three of them.

As for the horror of it all, as I said, I do think this book is slightly less scary, less gory, than its predecessor. Some of the opening scenes are wonderfully disturbing, but the middle section largely revolves around people telling Cas how dangerous his path is, without us every really seeing the danger – and frankly it stalled out the thrills a bit. And then things stayed pretty quiet right up until the random ghost-mob shows up – and while that was fun, if frankly a little unnecessary, it just didn’t particularly terrify me. All in all, this book just doesn’t get anywhere near the sheer terror of the house scenes from the first book – this one has fun spooky moments, but never once did it make me squirm or swallow hard, never once did it send chills up my spine. Instead this book heads off in a different direction – delving more deeply into the history of Cas’ father and the athame – and while I enjoyed it, I did miss the ggaaahhh factor of the first book.

But then I came to the end – and oh, what an ending! It twisted me up in a knot and I completely, utterly, and absolutely LOVED it. The ending makes this book. There were a few sections of this story that I thought felt a little flat, going in, but then the ending exploded all over this book like a bomb and suddenly the story entirely came together for me. And the end doesn’t just pay off this book, it pays off both books wonderfully – it really is THE ending. I can honestly say this book ended exactly as I wanted it to, though I didn’t know it at the time.

So yes, I am going to miss Anna, but I think Kendare was absolutely right to end her story here – and while the first book remains my favorite, number two makes for a highly enjoyable read and a very fitting end. And I absolutely, positively can’t wait to read whatever Kendare comes up with next.

Byrt Grade: A-

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

Kirkus Reviews (starred review) says:

This new author has a serious talent for action but also for delicious dry humor (“I’ve sort of been slacking off in my voodoo studies. I’ve got trigonometry, you know?”). The exciting conclusion leaves the coast clear for a whole series starring Cas or for something entirely different, whatever the author wishes. Either way, Stephen King ought to start looking over his shoulder.

The Readers Den says:

Overall I enjoyed the conclusion to this story but, in my opinion, it didn’t live up to Anna Dressed In Blood.

Cuddlebuggery says:

The end­ing was per­fect…Read­ing this book in the sec­ond floor hall­way right above the stairs at night, while my entire house­hold was sleep­ing soundly, wasn’t one of my best ideas. Learn from me.