When Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake was originally published in August, 2011, it quickly became an international bestseller. I couldn’t get an advance readers copy to save my life because this web site was in its infant stage then and every YA book reviewer on the planet wanted that book in the worst way. The paperback version has just been published and the publisher has graciously given us a hardback copy of Anna Dressed in Blood for a giveaway – AND – a copy of Book #2, Girl of Nightmares, for an August giveaway.
In today’s giveaway, one lucky reader will win a copy of Anna Dressed in Blood. Stay tuned though because we’ll be hosting a giveaway for Book #2 in a couple of weeks. Whoot!
Our review below for Anna Dressed in Blood is by Suzy Beal. Suzy has written several reviews for us and also wrote an article about the LA Times Festival of Books author session featuring Kendare Blake. To read that article, click here.
Theseus Cassio “Cas” Lowood is a ghost hunter. Years ago, Cas’ father hunted and “killed” ghosts with a magical knife called an athame, until one of the ghosts left him dead and partly devoured. Now Cas and his white-witch mother travel from town to town, continuing his father’s work. Through his ghost-hunting contacts he learns of an especially murderous specimen known as Anna Dressed in Blood, because the white party dress she died in is now drenched in the red stuff.
“I always hate the sunlit towns, full of newly built developments with double-car garages in shades of pale eggshell, surrounded by green lawns and dotted with laughing children. Those towns aren’t any less haunted than the others. They’re just better liars.”
Anna, who was murdered on her way to a high school dance in 1958, now haunts the house she had lived in, and kills anyone who comes inside. That is, until Cas appears on the scene – for some reason, she spares his life. Cas becomes intrigued with Anna, and develops a creepy crush on this ghost/corpse, who just got through tearing some of his new high school buddies in half.
“I peek over the back of the couch and there she is, my goddess of death, her hair snaking out in a great black cloud, her teeth grinding hard enough to make living gums bleed.”
Cas had intended to do away with Anna but difficulties arise. Does he have the strength and skill to defeat Anna, the most powerful and terrifying ghost he has ever met? Can he sort out his feelings for his new friends – and for Anna herself – and still stop Anna from killing? Can he do so without killing her?
“’Why are you here? Did you come to try to kill me again?’
‘Oddly enough, no. I—I had a bad dream. I needed to talk to someone.’”
In Anna Dressed in Blood, author Kendare Blake has created something of a cult classic in the supernatural YA genre. In structure and style, Anna is different: A deliciously dangerous romance that appeals to girls, but a ripping good adventure that is surely meant to appeal to that elusive young male demographic as well.
Blake has a gratifying feel for the gruesome, and doesn’t shrink from explicit descriptions of mayhem, printed in blood-red type. In fact she dispatches one major character after another in excruciatingly bloody detail. This novel may actually be too lurid for some readers; if you scare or offend easily at graphic violence or the occasional F-bomb, you might want to move on to less horrifying YA fare. If you like your supernatural spiked with copious amounts of gore, by all means, plunge in and get to know Anna.
Blake writes in the voice of the male protagonist, Cas. The first question I asked myself as I began to read was, “Does she pull it off?” I think she does, pretty convincingly. The first-person, present-tense hard-boiled narrative with its evocative and casually profane observations puts one in mind of a teenage Sam Spade, but rife with a 17-year-old’s bravado and insecurities. Cas relates to undead teenage girls the same way he does to live ones, with intrigue masked by indifference and the need to appear cool among his peers. This tone does much to make the characters seem real and immediate.
“Girls on the other hand, have always come easy. I don’t know why that is, exactly. Maybe it’s the outsider vibe and a well-placed brooding look.”
Even with the book’s fresh, you-are-there feeling, there are odd story elements which may make the suspension of disbelief a little challenging to some. The book constantly refers to the killing of people who are already dead, and physically fighting with spirits. “I have to go kill a ghost” just sounds funny to this ear. Also, we’re supposed to accept the notion that there are thousands of unsolved bloody murders in America that all occur at the hands of ghosts, not humans. If you aren’t annoyed by these shaky premises – and even if you are – you never lose the captivating sense of cinematic realism in the story. And after all, we’ve already accepted the premise of a teenage hero roaming the country, fighting murderous spirits with a magical knife.
Quibbles aside, this novel is a minor masterpiece. In a genre in which so many novels seem to blur together, Anna Dressed In Blood is a unique, entertaining read that doesn’t skimp on the sensational. Once you meet Anna, you never forget her – and you’ll soon meet her again in the sequel, Girl of Nightmares, which I will also be reviewing for PopcornReads.com.
Can’t wait to read it?
Anna Dressed in Blood was published in paperback on July 3, 2012, so it should be available from your favorite bookseller below. Just click the button to go there to get it.
Suzy Beal is a longtime contributor to the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine and the L.A. Weekly. She co-authored The Underground Guide to Los Angeles, which spent 12 weeks on the L.A. Times Bestseller list. Not surprisingly she works and lives in Los Angeles, California and loves biography, history and fantasy – preferably in books than combine all three. Suzy will also be reviewing Girl of Nightmares, the sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood, in early August, 2012.
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One lucky reader will win a copy of Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake!
1) The deadline for entries is Saturday night, 8/4/2012, at 11:59pm EDST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
2) This giveaway is open to entries with U.S. mailing addresses only because we do not ship books outside of the U.S.
3) You must be at least 13 years old to enter this giveaway.
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6) If you do not provide a complete mailing address in the Rafflecopter form, your entry will not be eligible. We will use your mailing address to ship your book to you.
7) That’s it – it’s a very easy giveaway, so have fun and best of luck!
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