These are some more super late reviews (do I write any other kind?) and it's two books I borrowed that make up a mini-series...not sure what you call it if it's only two books, a duology? So I decided to combine it into one review that gives you my thoughts on Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, and the followup, Girl of Nightmares.
I really like horror movies, but I honestly don't really read horror books. However, Anna Dressed in Blood had such good reviews when it was first released that eventually, after the sequel was released, I finally decided to pick it up one day It's the story of Cas, a ghost killer who moves from town to town with his mother, tracking down evil ghosts that have been killing humans, and finally getting rid of them. When he finds the ghost Anna Dressed in Blood, he expects everything to go like usual-- but Anna is not ordinary. She's more powerful than any ghost he's ever encountered, and yet, when given the chance, she doesn't kill Cas.
I don't read a lot of books with a male narrator, so that was something I immediately appreciated. I think Cas's voice feels authentic and although he's a bit stuckup, there's something just charming about him that I enjoyed. In perfect balance to his charm, there's Anna, who is perfectly creepy. The violence and gore in Anna Dressed in Blood is perfectly done, and Blake's writing and imagery are dark and thrilling.
However, I did get disappointed partway through Anna Dressed in Blood when the story took a new direction in a way that I didn't like. I wanted a book that was pure horror and guts, but instead it decided to get a bit mushy on me. No thank you. From that point on, there were still some redeeming moments and I thought the characters were all well flushed out and believable, but even it got a tad scary again it just wasn't quite as satisfying as I was hoping for.
The sequel, Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake, begins with a moopy Cas, and ugh, that is not what I wanted to read about. Guts and blood, please. However, it does move onto more interesting things and it has the same great writing, which is a mix of violence and humour. As a narrator, I just really enjoyed Cas's voice, even though I didn't always think he was great. I did want more of Anna in this book, along with more of the horror. In a lot of ways, because of the material, Girl of Nightmares is darker and more serious than Anna Dressed in Blood. However, I think there is less of that guts and blood, and more subtle horror, which I also really enjoyed once the story progressed to that.
In both Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake, there is a great group of characters that each have their own personality and depth that I really enjoyed reading about. Even though they are written from Cas's perspective, Blake really has the ability to create a group dynamic that feels real. Even secondary character's like Cas's mom are believable and with their own story. I also think Blake's writing is really strong, and there is some fun and some creepy imagery in these books. Although at first I thought I could do without the romance-- okay, I still could, but that would have made these books something totally different, and in the end Girl of Nightmares won me over on some aspects I didn't like about Anna Dressed in Blood making the series as a whole a success despite the mush.
If you're looking for something a bit creepy, well-written, and with great characters you would probably enjoy Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares.