Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

I’m branching out! Normally I’m not one to read ghost stories, but hey, this one was recommended and also available in audiobook at my local digital library. Yay. I do miss reading print books and the ritual of curling up and diving into the pages, but lately I’ve also appreciated having a distraction to listen to as I go about all the chores that I don’t really like.

This book makes a lovely distraction.

The Story

Cas Lowood has never had a normal life. His family has moved from place to place as his father hunted and killed dangerous ghosts. When his father is murdered by one of these violent ghosts, Cas inherits the job as well as the special sacrificial blade, the athame.

When Cas learns of the ghost, Anna Dressed in Blood, he knows that she might be the most dangerous target yet and he and his mother relocate to her sleepy small town. But, as all stories go, Anna turns out to be much different than expected. While she is terribly violent and literally tears apart anyone who steps foot into her home, she spares Cas.

Cas goes on to uncover her story and learn what is giving her so much power compared to other ghosts he’s hunted. In the process, he makes friends with the “queen bee” of the school and a totally nerdy kid who happens to be psychic. They work together to find clues about Anna, including casting a spell that reveals how and why she died.

It’s not until a much bigger problem presents itself that they know just how much trouble they’re in.

My Review

This is a story that seems almost a little too straightforward at first and then as the details unwind it gets more layered and to me, more interesting. The writing is very clean and easy to listen to, the characters unique and likeable, and the story itself engaging. And, there’s quite a bit of gore and violence as expected in a horror story, which in itself raises the tension and also makes the book demand to be read past bedtime.

I’ll admit, my writer brain did not want to shut up on this one as I puzzled through the clues that were given and what the possible outcomes could be. The best books give enough clues that I have a good idea where the story might go and the idea of it excites me enough that I want to see it come to life. Anna Dressed in Blood did have a handful of clues leading to something bigger going on beyond Anna’s story, so when that bigger thing stepped onto the page it shouldn’t have felt like a complete 180, but it did.

When listening to an audiobook, it’s much harder time to get a good feel where you are in the story. When I reached the big action scene that was meant to banish Anna back to wherever ghosts go when Cas kills them, I thought it might be the climax of the book. When her climactic scene came and went, but it didn’t’ feel like things were being resolved, I was left wondering what the story was really about.

The bigger story comes back to Cas wanting to find a resolution for the murder of his father and we definitely do get to that.

Another note, I didn’t know that this story was a duology (two book series) so when we got to the actual end and it didn’t feel finished, I wasn’t sure if it was just ended poorly or if I missed something. There are openings for more to happen, so I’ll probably pick up the second book to finish the story.

My Recommendation

As a horror novel, there are a few expectations that need to be lived up to. Anna Dressed in Blood has several on page murders that don’t shy back from the gory details. There is also a smattering of profanity, although not enough to really feel like an issue, I personally didn’t find it offensive.

This book is technically classified as a Young Adult (YA) horror, but its material does stretch above and beyond what many might be consider acceptable for YA. It earns it’s YA standing because the main character is very much a teen and throughout the story we are shown what it means to go through hard things as a teen so the YA assignment does work.

I’d recommend this for older teens and up because of the violence and gore.

I give Anna Dressed in Blood 3/5 for being a solid horror read but the shift to Cas’s bigger story felt disconnected to the events surrounding Anna’s story.

Thank you for joining me as I reviewed Anna Dressed in Blood today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

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