Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Anna Dressed in Blood Book Review

Author: Kendare Blake. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Tor Teen. ISBN: 9780765328656.
Annotation:  Seventeen-year-old Theseus Cassio “Cas” Lowood has an unusual life: he hunts murderous ghosts and sends them to their permanent graves. But nothing can prepare him for his next target: the ghost of Anna Korlov, a beautiful sixteen-year-old who was murdered fifty years earlier.
Personal thoughts:  I love a good ghost story, so I was really looking forward to reading this novel. I was not disappointed! Although it took a few chapters for me to get used to Blake’s writing style, I really enjoyed Cas’ narrative and thought it did a lot to help tone down some of the absolutely horrifying scenes in the novel. I got a little grossed out at times with all the dismemberment, dead bodies, etc. but I think that this novel would be really enjoyable for older teens who want something scary and creepy with a bit of romance thrown in. I’m looking forward to the sequel.
Plot summary: Seventeen-year-old Theseus Cassio “Cas” Lowood spends his life on the move. Following in his father’s footsteps, he hunts murderous ghosts and sends them to their permanent graves with the knife he inherited after his father was killed in the line of duty. Hoping to somehow avenge his father’s brutal murder, Cas, his mother, a white witch, and their cat travel the country dispatching the not-so-restful dead. Nothing can prepare Cas for what he encounters upon arriving in Thunder Bay, Ontario. After receiving a tip about a spirit called “Anna Dressed in Blood,” Cas feels a strange pull to the case that he isn’t used to. It seems that the ghost of sixteen-year-old Anna Korlov has been haunting her old Victorian mansion since she was murdered in 1958. To say that Anna has simply been rattling chains and slamming doors shut would be the understatement of the century: she has killed over 25 people since her death, ripping limb from limb anyone who dares enter her house. In an effort to learn more about Anna, Cas befriends Carmel, the “queen bee” at his new high school, and Thomas, a nerdy telepath who comes from a long line of witches himself. When Cas is lured to Anna’s mansion by Carmel’s jealous ex-boyfriend, he makes his first encounter with Anna: a beautiful but frightening ghost with jet-black eyes, wearing a dress dripping with her blood. For reasons unknown, however, Anna spares Cas’ life, and he is left wondering whether he should, or can, kill her like the rest of the ghosts he has hunted.
Review:  Told in a bitingly sarcastic tone with blood-red type, Anna Dressed in Blood is not your typical boy-meets-girl love story. Almost from the beginning, it is clear that Blake’s writing-style is unique. Cas is the narrator of the story, and the character’s jaunty wit permeates what would be an otherwise horrifying plot. Cas is a very likeable protagonist, and his job as a ghost hunter makes for an interesting twist in his dealings with Anna. Oftentimes in ghost stories written for young adults, the characters seem to haphazardly stumble upon their spectres. Cas, however, seeks Anna out, despite tales of her dismembering the townsfolk for fifty years. The result is a fun and fresh approach on horror that makes for a very exciting read. With that said, parents, teachers and librarians should be warned. Although it is a very good story with a lot of the typical young adult cast of characters (i.e. the outsider, the queen bee, the nerdy sidekick, the overprotective mom, etc.), Anna Dressed in Blood is a novel for older teens. The book is chock full of cussing, gore, violence and horror that would likely land it on the no-fly list for parents of anyone under fifteen. For older teens, however, it is a well-written, enjoyable, and genuinely creepy ghost story that is sure to leave readers clambering for the sequel, Girl of Nightmares, set to be released in 2012.
Genre: Horror
Reading level: Grade 10+
Similar titles: Hereafter by Tara Hudson.
Themes:  Ghosts, Wicca, occult, murder, ghost hunters, witches, friendship, death.   
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Kirkus and Booklist.
Series Information: First installment in Anna series.  
Discussion questions:

- Did you learn any new words from Wicca or VooDoo lore after reading this novel?
- Where do you think the spirits that Cas killed were sent?
- What was the scariest part of the novel in your opinion?
- Why do you think Anna was murdered?
- What would you like to see happen in the next installment?

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