Spine-tingling and chilling, Anna Dressed in Blood by the talented Kendare Blake feels as you are reading it like someone is walking over your future grave, or that people–dead people-are somewhere in the room with you, unseen but watching, always watching. Ghosts can be single-minded of purpose and relentless–and yet, sometimes, love can survive even death. Come into Theseus Cassio (Cas) Lowood’s life–he is the brooding, handsome first-person narrator of Anna Dressed In Blood, whose father was horribly murdered in a ghost hunt gone wrong.
How do you kill someone who is already dead? With a blade that’s very special, indeed–an athame that Cas’s father had owned, which he, in turn, inherited. Ridding the world of ghosts who have spent their after-lives ridding the world of humans who have mistakenly crossed their paths runs in the Lowood bloodline. Reading about Cas’s life, a young man who is always moving from one state and city to another with his mother, who is a Wicca, or witch, always attending different schools and rarely establishing any close relationships with anyone, you understand how strongly the desire to avenge his father’s death burns in Cas. But his questing after further murderous ghosts to “kill” them once again, permanently, goes beyond revenge–he doesn’t want anyone else to suffer the same sort of fate that ended his father’s life.
Eventually, this life of blood, revenge, brutality, and the longing to save further innocent lives from ghosts leads Cas and his mother to the town of Thunder Bay. He is lured there by a legend. Not just any legend, but the legend of Anna Korlov, who has come to be know in death as Anna Dressed In Blood. At the age of sixteen, she was savagely murdered, her throat sliced, and her murderer was never found. There was reportedly so much blood that her white dress was soaked with it. Whenever her ghost is seen, it still looks as if blood is dripping from her dress. After people who dared to venture into the house where she was killed wound up torn into pieces for their transgression of trespassing, she became known by her rather colorful nickname.
Cas discovers in his hunt for Anna Korlov that this particular ghost is unlike any other that he has ever hunted. She is more self-aware, more conscious about what she’s doing, and more regretful of her actions, which seem to be almost (or fully) beyond her control. What is driving her to kill, and, why is it that she doesn’t want to kill Cas, even though he is determined to end whatever existence she has left on this earth? What makes her so much more powerful than any othe ghost he’s faced, so strong and fierce that he is tossed around by her as if he’s a child’s toy? In sixty years, she has spared no one else’s life, so why has she decided to spare his?
The teens Cas meets in Thunder Bay are also wonderfully written about by Kendare Blake. They seem to Cas at first pretty much just like all of the other teens he’s ever met at the other schools he’s attended, with their lives, their loves, their cliques, their self-absorption, and their desire to party. But one of the teens, a beautiful cheerleader, Carmel Jones, shows him that she is more than meets the eye. She has a depth of character that draws him to her, despite the knowledge that her ex-boyfriend is a hulking football player who is jealous of anyone else getting near Carmel. What Anna does to the athlete after he and his buddies try to get her to kill Cas is a gruesome display of her powers. I won’t tell you what she does, but it’s one of the novel’s best scenes.
Anna Dressed In Blood pits the angst-ridden, revenge-seeking, ghost hunter Cas Lowood against a type of ghost he’s never faced before, a veritable goddess of death who has killed over twenty people who have dared wander into her house. If you love reading scary good, chilling supernatural books that will keep you reading ’til late into the night, and then make you want to fall asleep with the lights on, then you’re sure to love reading Kendare Blake’s awesome novel, Anna Dressed In Blood. In my opinion, it’s one of this year’s best books so far, in any genre.