Expected Release Date: August 30, 2011 (Available Now!)
Publisher: Tor
Imprint:  Tor Teen
Author’s Website: http://kendareblake.com/
My Source for This Book: Personal Gift
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 1, Anna Series
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Warm

Warning: This review contains minor spoilers.

Official Blurb:

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered 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: track, 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, now stained red and dripping with 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.

But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas’s life.

Cas Lowood is no ordinary 17 year old boy.  He is a ghost-hunter, one of the few descended from a long line of hunters who can not only see and communicate with malevolent ghosts, but who possesses the power to end their reign of terror.  When his father was brutally murdered on a routine ghost-hunting mission, Cas picked up where his father left off, training and searching, waiting for the day that he is strong enough to go after the being that murdered his father.

When one of his associates forwards information about Anna Korlov, known now as Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas feels an immediate strong compulsion to seek out the murderous spirit, and put her back in the grave.  When he arrives in town, however, he discovers that Anna is much more powerful than any other spirit he’s ever encountered, and it will take not only his own strength, but the help of the locals to discover the source of her power and break the curse that has trapped her in the old Victorian house, destined to murder any who enter…

What Worked For Me:

  • I loved the blood and gore.  There was just enough to actually convince the reader that Cas’ job was truly fraught with danger, without crossing the line into cheap thrills, and I thought it worked beautifully.
  • Cas was simply wonderful. I loved that he was so mature for his age, and given his chosen vocation, it fit so well that he saw friendships and relationships as tools of the trade rather than true emotional ties.
  • I also loved Cas’ inexplicable connection to Anna, and the fact that it was set up before they met.  For some reason, the fact that Anna’s haunting resonated with him from the moment he heard of her was the perfect setup for their “relationship”, and their first meeting was absolutely incredible.
  • I also liked the backstory with Cas’ father’s death, and while I personally figured out the twist from the first hint that was given, I still enjoyed when everything came to a head.
  • It may seem silly to mention something that was not in the story, but I was actually quite thankful that there was no love triangle in the story. Ms. Kendare could’ve stirred up issues of jealousy and angst between Cas and Carmel, but wisely chose to focus instead on the ghost story, and I couldn’t be happier about that decision.
  • I also enjoyed the surprisingly high level of humor that balanced the story so nicely.  With plenty of references to Ghost Busters, and some silliness regarding distracting some of the minor players in the book, there was just enough levity to keep the story from being dragged down into severe heaviness, without actually negating the horror and mystery.
  • I don’t read books from a male POV very often, so this was a refreshing change.  Sure, Cas is not a “typical” teenage boy in many ways, but even so, you could definitely feel the masculine influence on his thoughts and behaviors, and I enjoyed it.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • I was actually a bit put off by the fact that non-sensitive people could see Anna.  While I understand that part of it was probably to illustrate the vast amount of power she had, it just seemed a bit… off, for lack of a better term.
  • It’s a spoiler, so I’ll try to be vague, but in regards to the athame, I was disappointed in how it was “returned”.  Plus, all I could think of was “won’t the cops notice bloody footprints?”. Or perhaps I just watch too much CSI.
  • Big bad evil ghost chick is suddenly able to ride around in a car, and hang out on Cas’ porch.  While I realize that by this point of the story she was no longer “tethered” to the house, it still seemed a bit incongruous that she was able to travel such a large distance from where she’d been killed, especially given the setup of all of the other hauntings given in the story.

I wanted, so badly, to adore this story.  It got off to such a strong start that I in all seriousness told Mr. Romanceaholic that I sincerely hoped that someone would have the good sense to make this novel into a movie, because the storyline and visuals were absolutely engrossing.   Everything from Cas’ family history to his hunting down and killing murderous ghosts, to utilizing his father’s contacts to choose his next target, to his mother’s white witchcraft and enabling of his lifestyle.  Even the relationships that Cas developed with the local schoolkids, and the horror of watching a ghost brutally murder someone right in front of him while inexplicably sparing his life, all added to my excitement about the story, and the incredible descriptions painted such a vivid image of the story in my mind that I couldn’t help but wish I could go see it come to life on the big-screen.

However, about halfway in, the story became less frightening and creepy and turned more silly and cheesy, culminating in an ending that had me sighing, not with contentment, but with disappointment.   Once Anna’s curse was broken, there was practically no tension left in the book, and when another Big Bad made an appearance, it was too little too late for me, despite the valiant effort at gore, creepiness, and vivid descriptions.

Am I still interested in seeing this book turned into a movie? Probably not, unless the screenwriters work with Ms. Kendare to amp up the horror and tone down the cheese in the ending.  Will I read the sequel when it’s released? Absolutely.   Do I recommend this to fans of YA horror? You betcha.

A solid (and creepy) 4/5 Stars.