Wednesday, April 4, 2012

On Ghostbusters: A Review of Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake

This book was recommended to me around the time that it first came out (I'm sorry, I can't remember who sent the rec), and I'm only just go around to actually reading it. I forgot what it was that made me put it on my wish list to begin with, until I got into the story a ways and then remembered.

It's a ghost hunting book.Woot!

To be more specific, this book is about a teenage boy named Cas who has inherited the ability to kill ghosts from his dearly departed father. Cas and his mother move around a lot so that Cas can stop as many violent spirits as possible. He receives tips from a network of helpers, friends, and fans. When he gets a note about the legend known as Anna Dressed in Blood, he knows he has to follow the lead. But Anna is no ordinary ghost. She's stronger and more violent than anything Cas has faced before. She's also beautiful, vulnerable, and utterly fascinating. And most perplexing of all: She lets Cas live.

Positive Comments

It has the gory horror that the premise advertises. Anna is legitimately terrifying, as are the other baddies of the book. This makes the action more engaging, and makes up for the fairly simplistic world building.

I found myself liking the characters, even though they are only developed on a shallow level. Cas is the "chosen one" type of hero, which normally bores me, but there's enough of a twist to the idea, and enough uniqueness in his personality, that I found myself getting into his character. I liked Thomas and Carmel, who end up as semi-reluctant sidekicks. Anna is by far the most interesting character, no contest. Part villain, part victim, part budding heroine, she's loaded with potential. I hope we get to learn a lot more about her in future books.

Critical Comments

The plot felt cobbled together to me. The two thirds is about Anna and how Cas feels about her--awe, pity, admiration, a little love, pants pissing terror. But near the end the focus shifts abruptly away from Anna. All of the sudden we're resolving Cas's back story--the shift gave me whiplash and left me not wholly invested in the outcome. I wanted to see more of the focus on their dubious friendship/relationship.

The character development and relationship development are shallow, especially with regard to the secondary characters. Not that I expect a big character arc for the sidekicks, but a little something would have been nice.

The logic of how Cas is able to do what he does eludes me. His mother is totally cool with constantly moving to new places so that her teenage son can go out and kill ghosts. By himself. And it's not like she's presented as, say, slightly crazy, or an alcoholic, or on a revenge path. She's presented as a really nice, fairly stable mom. For comparison, I think of Supernatural, in which the back story is that the Winchester brothers spent their whole childhood on the road with their dad, who hunted monsters. The difference being that he's portrayed as obsessive and slightly unhinged, he's driven by revenge, and he's by no means the ideal father. Which is what makes the premise work. In this book, having a mom who acts like a great mom, but chooses never to be too concerned with her son being in danger (until maybe one moment near the end), gives the book a forced, fake feel to it. Monsters killed your husband. Shouldn't you worry more??


Because of the ghost hunting thing, I'd recommend this to fans of Supernatural and things of that genre--urban legend based fantasy. As romance goes, it's alright, but I'd never recommend it to strict romance fans. It's a decent YA. 3 stars.

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