Author: Kendare Blake
Narrator: August Ross
Audiobook Length: 8 hours 43 minutes
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered 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. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, 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, now stained red and dripping with 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.
Yet she spares Cas’s life.
Anna Dressed in Blood is the first novel in a duology. Kendare Blake has been an author I have enjoyed before with both her Goddess Wars and Three Dark Crowns series, so I was curious what the Anna duology would be like. This story follows teenage ghost hunter, Theseus Cassio ‘Cas’ Lowood, whose ancestors were also hunters. He travels around from place to place with his mother and cat while killing ghosts and trying to find out who killed his father. His latest mission brings him to the small town of Thunder Bay, Ontario where he investigates the ghost of Anna Korlov, who died under mysterious circumstances more than 60 years ago.
I went into this story somewhat blind as I knew the cover and I knew the title, which is one reason why Cas as the main character was initially a surprised. I thought the story would follow Anna and while she is a prominent character, Cas is the narrator. As most stories that I read feature a female lead, it was an interesting change to have a male one. Cas was an enigma of a character as he is presented as the lone wolf type, yet he is surrounded by aid, he is conceited yet shy, along with other contradictions. As a narrator, he is also unreliable as it is sometimes difficult to tell when he is storytelling and when he is not. While these pieces of his personality do make sense in the story, I wish there was more explanation for the transitions.
Anna was an interesting character as she is a murdering ghost, yet the reader can’t help but sympathize with her at times. Through reading, her brutal murder and how she arrived at her current predicament were well-explored and I loved this piece of the novel. Cas is tasked with killing the ghost of Anna but can’t seem to go through with it. As the reader moves through the story, the reasons, and relationships between these two characters and a host of secondary characters are all explored. Through Blake’s lyrical and descriptive writing, it is not difficult for the reader to “experience” the horror and creepiness of the tale.
With Cas and his group all being students in school, there are some pieces that the reader needs to accept as they do not add up in the real world. This would be his mother blindly accepting his position as a ghost hunter given their family’s past plus moving everywhere. As a student, Cas does not go to school a lot or have a lot of homework or studying that is accomplished. The way there is a lack of empathy for certain deaths among the characters or how alibis are all made up sometimes made no sense to me. These basics, along with others, are ones that take away from the realism, but I chose to just ignore these as I was not reading a ghost story for any realism. This installment was a unique ghost story where this some simple-ness mixed with the complex. I cannot wait to see how this story will conclude in the sequel, Girl of Nightmares!