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Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood is kind of like a diet Supernatural, or Supernatural-lite, if you will. The premise has a “Winchester: The Early Years” vibe to it; as if Sam and Dean had amalgamated into one person and was still in high school. Ghost hunting.

And it really was a cracking little read.

Thesius “Cas” Cassio (not even kidding) is a teenage ghost-hunter, taking over the family business from his dead father. His white-witch mum doesn’t particularly enjoy letting her young boy go off a-hunting, but she nonetheless indulges this practice because PLOT. Mum and Cas move around a lot as each ghostly case crops up and Cas has to juggle school and ghost research. But then the legend of Anna Dressed in Blood finds its way into Cas’s life. Something is very different about this particular vengeful spirit an could threaten to disturb Cas’s routine forever…

Entertainment-wise, this book was pretty damn solid. It gave me all the elements of Supernatural I enjoy (except for the eye-candy, but you can’t have everything in life), but adding in a pick-n-mix of unexpected twists and turns. I liked the story; I had no idea where it was going to go and I love that in a book. Obviously there were a few trivial high school shenanigans thrown in there for the intended YA audience, but whereas I tend to yawn my way through those parts in most YA novels, it wasn’t the case here. There was hardly any focus on school time, and what little there was served great purpose. The secondary characters Cas meets at school are fairly important to the plot (which would have suffered without them), but I do wish there was a bit more to them. Trying to weigh them up against other SCs in YA novels, I’ve seen better and I’ve seen worse. At the end of the day I was just indifferent towards these characters, just like I was towards Cas.

Cas is quite like an amalgamation of Sam and Dean Winchester. He’s got that arrogant and ballsy Dean-like exterior, but with a softer, more caring, and certainly more naive Sam side that comes out sometimes. But there was no happy middle ground with him, I found. I was too irked by his arrogance one minute then annoyed by his stupid mistakes the next; I never found a moment when I could connect with him as a person and appreciate his good qualities. Though I like a flawed protagonist, I can’t stand overbearing flaws and Cas just wasn’t the ticket for me.

What I probably enjoyed the most was the horror aspect. There was some good shit in there, some good shit that I wish there had been more of. There was some fabulous, gory, ghost shit; the kind you’d love to see on the big screen but at the same time you know it probably won’t compare to the horrors you’re imagining inside your head. Anna herself, however, could have been a bit scarier.

“Anna is descending upon me, coming down the stairs without taking any strides. Her feet drag horribly along like she can’t use them at all. Dark, purplish veins cut through her pale white skin. Her hair is shadow-less black, and it moves through the air as though suspended in water, snaking out behind and drifting like reeds. It’s the only thing about her that looks alive.”

I’ll be honest, I was disappointed with how the whole Anna thing developed. She just wasn’t dark enough.  She wasn’t the kind of ghost or demon the Winchesters would come across, more like something Buffy would come across. Anna Dressed in Blood ended up being PG-13, whereas the twisted nature of my soul really requires something R-rated to capture my full attention.

Yep. Just like that.

Really though, this was a good summer read. Kept me turning those pages, kept me guessing, kept me entertained up until the end. If you like a bit of light-horror with a good, fast-paced plot, give this one a go.


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