Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood

Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story. . . 

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead. 
So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder 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: move, 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, but now stained red and dripping 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.
 And she, for whatever reason, spares his life

For one of my classes last week I had to write and submit a book report based on a horror novel of my choice. After hearing so many wonderful things about Anna Dressed in Blood from my friend Chelsey, I decided to pick up a copy from the library and give it a try! It was fantastic! Rather that re-writing an entirely new review, I've copy and pasted my book report below. Sorry if its a little dry and formal...but my general thoughts and feelings are still there! I've cut out a couple of paragraphs to make it a bit shorter.... Enjoy!

Young adults looking for a thrilling horror novel to keep them up late at night have no need to look further than Kendare Blake’s latest book Anna Dressed in Blood. Published in August 2011, the book has received a great deal of acclaim from reviewers, and was placed on both YALSA’s 2012 “Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers” and “Best Fiction for Young Adults” lists. After picking up this eerie novel, it wasn’t difficult to understand why it has received so much praise, as the story of Anna Dressed in Blood is both horrifying and intriguing at the same time. Told through the narration of Cas Lowood, a teenage boy who hunts and kills ghosts for a living, the story is full of gore and frightening scenes that will send chills down a reader’s spine. At the same time, however, there is also some humour mixed in during the calmer points in the text, along with a strange underlying romance plot.

Although the novel is focused mainly on the development of the plot rather than the characters, readers will nevertheless find Cas’ sarcasm and wit appealing. His back-story is also quite heart wrenching, and will likely win over the sympathies of most audiences. Unlike Cas, the supporting characters are all rather flat, such as figures like Cas’ kitchen-witch mother and Thomas, the bumbling mind reader whom Cas eventually befriends. The fact that a sequel to Anna Dressed In Blood is already in the works, however, will hopefully result in better development of these characters in the future.

As in the case of most novels within the horror genre, the main theme and purpose of Anna Dressed in Blood is to frighten and entertain the reader. The horror in the novel is exemplified through Blake’s vivid and descriptive language, which gruesomely details the numerous murders that occur throughout the book. Indeed, the clarity of the writing makes it difficult not to picture the image of bodies being ripped and torn apart with ease. A unique aspect of Anna Dressed in Blood, which also added to the overall sense of horror while reading, was the fact that the text itself was printed in a dark red colour in order to mimic the appearance of dried blood. This coincided perfectly with the events in the novel, as Cas himself receives a note in the mail written in blood with Anna’s name on it. The fear generated by Blake’s writing, therefore, is one of the key reasons why Anna Dressed in Blood is ultimately a successful horror novel.

Canadian readers will also be thrilled to discover that the house which Anna haunts, and the setting where the majority of the novel takes place, is located in none other than Thunder Bay, Ontario! While writing Anna Dressed in Blood, Blake visited Thunder Bay in order to procure some local knowledge of the area, and the research shows in her writing. Not only does her description of the town’s appearance ring true, but all of the restaurants, waterfalls, and even the high school that Cas attends actually exist within Thunder Bay. Readers who are familiar with the area, therefore, will benefit from the added horror of imagining places that they have visited as being haunted by a vengeful ghost.

The only aspect of the story that I felt took away from the novel’s horror, however, was the fact that Blake added an underlying romance plot to the text. Although the romance doesn’t really surface until the last three or four chapters of the book, and isn’t excessively emphasized, it felt out of place in the novel. Not only that, it also somewhat made the character of Anna’s ghost less terrifying. As a result, while teenage boys may have enjoyed Anna Dressed in Blood throughout most of story, the sudden appearance of romance might take away some of their satisfaction in reading the novel.

Overall, Anna Dressed in Blood is a fantastic horror novel that will certainly thrill the majority of the readers who pick it up. The fast paced plot, gruesome imagery, terrifying situations, and supernatural characters are the combination that make this novel so perfect. While the novel is targeted at teen audiences, adults may also find enjoyment in the eeriness which the novel provokes.  The sequel, Girl of Nightmares, will be published in August 2012 and picks up right where Anna Dressed in Blood left off.  Promising to be just as gruesome and terrifying as its predecessor, I am already looking forward to finding out how this horrifying story will continue. 

Rating: 4/5 Stars


TG said...

I've been thinking about reading this one for a while and my library does have a copy...good to hear more positive things about it!

Ikhlas said...

Great review, Natalie! I didn't find it as terrifying as I thought I was going to, but I'm glad you enjoyed it (and how cool to be able to write about it for school)!

Jenny said...

Wow such a fancy review! ;) I liked this one but the romance did feel a little off to me and I must be way desensitized because it wasn't scary to me..at all.

Natalie said...

Haha ya I didn't find it all that terrifying either....I somewhat exaggerated for my book report so that my professor would accept it as a horror novel. I forgot to take those exaggerations out before I posted it on my blog....oops!

Chelsey said...

So apparently I'm just a sissy then =(. Or maybe it was because I was reading this in the middle of the night on my couch with the radiator making weird noises. Regardless, I am a baby when it comes to being scared.
I didn't even see this post until just now! I'm really glad you liked the book =). Very entertaining and well balanced report/review =)!

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