Anna Dressed In Blood | Thoughts
Kendare Blake came across my radar when I found her upcoming novel Three Dark Crowns, and discovered she has a few stories out I'd never explored. I normally stay firmly planted in epic new worlds, but I needed something different from my usual fantasy genre as I felt a slump coming on. Plus, in doing my "I discovered a new author" homework, I found Anna Dressed In Blood, which has great reviews and seemed a safe bet for a quick read to familiarize myself with Blake's writing.
So glad I did! I connected with Cas immediately, the cocky ghost hunter (don't you dare call him a ghostbuster) who keeps everyone at a distance lest he grow too attached to one place or person.
“God, living people are irritating.”
Cas has inherited his father's trade of hunting and releasing ghosts from our world. Theirs is an ancient bloodline that, thousands of years ago, used their blood to forge a blade that has the ability to "kill" spirits. After his father is murdered by one of his ghostly victims, the family athame passes to Cas and with it the urge to continue their family legacy. Not sure what an athame is? I wasn't either...obviously it's a blade, a knife of sorts. But athame was a new artifact for me, so in case it is for you too, here you go:
An athame (or athamé) is a black-handled ceremonial double-edged dagger, one of several magical tools used in traditional witchcraft and other Neopagan religions such as Wicca.
Cool. Learn something new everyday!
Cas, his mother, and their cat Tybalt rarely stay in one place for long, always following after the next ghost sighting. When Anna Dressed In Blood is brought to his attention, there is something about the story that pulls him to the small Canadian town in a different way than his other conquests.
Anna is different in that the moment he enters her haunted Victorian, he becomes the first person she has ever let leave alive. There's more to her than first meets the eye, and Cas has come to have his own form of decision making regarding which ghosts deserve to be killed and which should be spared. His search to learn the truth behind Anna's murder decades earlier leads him down a path of dark magic, voodoo, and Obeah.
Didn't think you'd be reading a story steeped in Wicca and Caribbean magic? Me either! Don't worry, any fanatics reading...it doesn't ever get too religious.
Despite Cas' attempts to keep his distance and remain solitary, he finds friendship with Thomas, a voodooman's grandson still learning the trade, and Carmel, a completely ordinary socialite who is more than first appearances suggest.
I love how Blake forms her characters. Being able to see Queen Bee Carmel from Cas' eyes (instead of, say, a female MC who all-too-often drops into girl-hating and slut-shaming) gives us the facts: She's gorgeous, the captain of the football team's girl, has the school wrapped around her fingers and knows exactly how to get what she wants. Yep, these people exist, and she happens to be exactly who Cas wishes to befriend. Because she's popular, he knows she'll have knowledge of everyone and everything in the town. But he also appreciates instantly that she's smart, and loyal.
With the formation of this odd trio, they attempt to solve the mystery surrounding Anna, and I pushed away the logical thoughts just as Cas does when his feelings for the cursed girl deepen. Who cares if she's a ghost...we'll figure that out later. Right now, just save her, get one more moment alone with her...
“She's my purpose and we're going to save each other. We're going to save everyone. And then I'm going to convince her that she's supposed to stay here. With me.”
The themes of this story are dark, the things that happen to these characters are violent and bloody, and yet the bond that develops between Cas and Anna is sweet and innocent. I LOVED IT.
“I come in all big and bad, and you use me for a game of handball.” I grin. “Makes a guy feel damn manly.
She grins back. “It made me feel pretty manly.”
The romance never gets too thick, instead the story primarily focuses on Cas' journey to discovering more than just how to save Anna, and learning hurtful truths about his fate, his father's fate, and their legacy. If you haven't already guessed, this book gets creepy. I scare pretty easily (there were even moments reading the later Harry Potter books alone at night that I had to stop. Don't judge—you know those books got dark.) Blake doesn't shy away from the gore, or from ghastly descriptions of what was done to the victims in the story. I never found myself too creeped out, though I will admit there was a moment walking down a dark hallway in my house that I, ahem, hurried to get to the light switch.
“I’ve seen most of what there is to be afraid of in this world, and to tell you the truth, the worst of them are the ones that make you afraid in the light. The things that your eyes see plainly and can’t forget are worse than huddled black figures left to the imagination. Imagination has a poor memory; it slinks away and goes blurry. Eyes remember for much longer.”
*looks around nervously* Okay.
There were a few leaps that were a little too convenient, like how no one ever digs too deeply into the missing/murdered bodies, or the obvious issue that Cas and his witch mother seem to be ignoring the warning signs given off by their little ghost sensor. Yes, I'm being intentionally vague. But I laughed a lot at Cas' thoughts and dialogue, and Blake's writing makes it easy to get sucked in. I had a fun time reading, and look forward to more of this author!