Theseus Cassio Lowood AKA Cas kills the dead. This may seem redundant, but it's true. He destroys harmful ghosts and has done so ever since his father died a gruesome death doing the same task. Now, Cas travels the world, following rumors and killing ghosts, with his mother, online occult supplier and herbal witch, and her temperamental cat cat, only useful for recognizing spirits. After moving to Thunder Bay, Canada, Cas meets an altogether different kind of ghost: Anna Korlov, more commonly known as Anna Dressed in Blood. Her murder from 1958 was never solved and anyone foolish enough to venture into her house dies a horrible, painful death. Her once pristine white dress she wore to a school dance is now dripping and stained with blood. Her power is unparalleled by any other ghost he's encountered, save for one: his father's murderer. If Cas can defeat her, he will be ready to take down his father's murderer, but she easily defeats. However, she spares his life, something he has never seen a ghost do. Can he eventually defeat her and somehow destroy her source of power?
Anna Dressed in Blood is a wonderfully spooky read that really grabbed me from the first pages. This is partly because of the striking, blood tinged cover and deep red ink the story is printed in. The concept is original and takes the ghost story some place new. I'm not normally too big of a fan of ghost stories because after a while they start to all sound the same. Kendare Blake puts a new spin on things with ghost slayers, magic, voodoo, witches, and seriously malicious ghosts. There is a small community of ghost slayers, unknown to most people. Cass inherited an athame or ceremonial knife from his father and makes killing ghosts and avenging his father's death his personal quest. He moves across the world chasing leads on killer ghosts and dispatches them one by one, never staying in one place for very long. At first, his reluctance to get close to people and his willingness to use the people around him makes him seems callous and shallow. As the book goes on, his behavior is shown to actually protect himself and keep emotional attachments from distracting him. I loved his narrative because of his wit and the growth he shows throughout the novel. Although he is a compelling character, the one that really kept be reading was Anna.
Anna Korlov is a strong, fearsome, badass ghost. She is only the second that Cass hasn't been able to defeat, the first being his father's murderer. She's not a little poltergeist that simply moves things around like most pitiful ghosts; she can literally tear people apart with very little effort. She has killed anyone who has entered her house for over 50 years and she can suddenly choose not to kill one person. Rage seems to fill her every time she encounters someone. Her eyes turn black, black veins snake across her skin, and blood soaks and drips of her dress. I loved that a young girl in a white dress is usually the picture of innocence and goodness, but here, the image is horribly corrupted and frankly terrifying. Her house seems to be an extension of her that she could manipulate at will, revealing the scores of those that have died there in their putrescence. She's obviously no ordinary ghost. I needed to know what had happened to her, how she died, and how she got to be so powerful. Her very essence is a mystery. Is she completely evil? Is there a vulnerable young dead girl in there somewhere?
Anna Dressed in Blood features compelling characters, unique story lines, and new conventions for the ghost story. The plot always moved and maintained a level of suspense that kept me reading and then wanting even more after I finished the novel. Kendare Blake doesn't shy away from blood or gore at all, which puts closer to older teen or adult horror. This is highly recommended and I am eagerly awaiting the sequel, Girl of Nightmares.
My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins