Release Date: Aug. 30, 2011
Publisher: Tor Teen
Age Group: Young Adult
Series: Anna #1
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound
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.
It’s October! To me, that signals the official start of fall aka my favorite time of year. Despite all my yammerings in the past about what a giant scaredy cat I am, something about cooler temps, pumpkin-flavored everything, and changing leaves puts me in the mood for scary stories. It was with this idea in mind that I picked up Anna Dressed in Blood, a ghostly tale I’d heard raves about in the past.
Anna begins as the story of Theseus Cassio Lowood (though his friends call him Cas). Our hero is, for all intents and purposes, a ghost killer. Yes, ghosts are already mostly dead, but we all know that means they’re still slightly alive. Cas uses the atheme he inherited from his late father (also a ghost killer) to “slay the demons” and send them onto their final destination. He and his mother travel to Thunder Bay, Canada so he can take out an thoroughly angry and murderous ghost named Anna Korlov, more commonly referred to as Anna Dressed in Blood. And, like many other heroes before him, Cas finds much more than he bargained for in Anna’s house.
Cas is one of my absolute favorite narrators of all time. This is by far one of the most authentic male voices I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. He’s got a hilariously dry wit, combined with a splash of teenage sarcasm and the sweetest bit of sincerity, and I want to genuinely hang out with him. He manages to inject humor throughout the story, even when the reader has very little to laugh about. Also, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I actually like when YA uses curse words. Cas deals with some serious mess here, so I think his swears aren’t gratuitous in the least. I could read volumes more of Cas.
So why is there little to laugh about? Well, because Anna Dressed in Blood is a ghost story, which of course means there must be death. This one, though, has its share of gruuuuuesome deaths. From the true details of Anna’s demise to the backgrounds of the other ghosts Cas comes across to the descriptions of the murders at Anna’s hands (and ew icky dude blech she knows how to kill ‘em for real!), this isn’t a tale to be taken lightly. Again, I’m a big ole wuss, so I took to reading this mostly in daylight hours. There’s a sneakiness to some of the scarier bits here too, so just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, a new ghost or a plot twist from the deepest depths of Creeptown shows up or someone shuts a door too loudly and you jump out of your skin. What, that’s just me?
I’m definitely glad I gave Anna Dressed in Blood a shot. It’s a great book to sate the scary story urge that this time of year always brings. I’m planning on picking up the sequel, Girl of Nightmares, just as soon as I can.