Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake is a young adult thriller that stands above the rest in the simple fact that the characters drive the story. Blake has taken the genre of romantic ghost story beyond the norm in her development and intense writing. The tale itself of a haunting and he young ghost hunter who comes to kill the ghost may be in some places quite formulatic, but the characters themselves will drive the tale and make up for any failings in plot and story.
Cas Lowood is a teenager with and interesting job. It’s one he inherited from his father. Cas kills the dead. Cas took over for his father when his dad was murdered by one the ghosts he hunted. Now Cas has taken up the vocation and his father’s blade, the Athame. Now Cas travels the country with his mother and her spirit sniffing cat. They hunt down legends and folk tales. Every small town has one. The story of a ghost and the restless dead.
Now Cas is on the hunt for the legend called Anna Dressed in Blood. A ghost of a young girl brutally murdered in 1958, still wearing the dress she was killed in. A white dress now stained red and dripping in blood. Anna haunts the home she grew up in. An empty and abandoned Victorian mansion. It is here Cas comes, he believes this to be the usual job. He tracks, he hunts, he kills. But Anna is far more powerful than Cas expects. Anna has killed every person who has dared to step into her home and now Cas is beaten, but intead of killing him, Anna does something no one expects. She lets him go.
Now Cas knows there is more to Anna then the haunting and more to her past then the legend tells. But there is even a larger danger he must face. A far more powerful malevolent spirit, one that shares a past with Cas and he cannot face both of them alone.
Anna Dressed In Blood is not a Buffy and Scooby Doo redo. It is not a cutesy teenage romance. There is a story here of redemption and of horror and of grief. Anna is far different from the genre often hands out. She is not a misunderstood teenage Casper the friendly ghost. She is a killer, a spirit so full of range that her basement is full of the dead she has brutally murdered. Her regrets afterward do nothing to erase the fact that her actions have ended the lives of so many. Cas and his group of friends are ill equipped to deal with what Anna has become. Cas himself is the silent brooding type that for all the good he does, is not beyond using people to justify his work. He is struggling with the death of his own father as he tries to carry on. What Cas and Anna find is that the world they live in is much different than they could have imagined and they are not so different from one another then they could have ever believed.
Characters drive this novel. That is what makes it better than most of this genre. The circumstances and events may be the same but the characters make you care about them. They bust out of their conventional trappings and become their own beings. The ghost who is far more than the ghost. The ghost hunter who is far more than the ghost hunter and the supporting cast who bring their own levels of courage and angst to the tale. All this makes Anna Dressed in Blood a tale not to be missed!