From Goodreads: Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder 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: move, 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, but now stained red and dripping 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.
And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.
The Writer's View
I'm going to come right out and say it -- loved this book. I've never read a horror novel, mostly because I hate being scared, but I really, really loved this book. (Thanks to Giselle at Xpresso Reads for the recommendation!) Kendare Blake may be one of my new favorite authors. Can't wait to see what she writes in the future.
Making the conventional, unconventional
The unconventionality was hands down my favorite aspect of this book. There are lots of ghost hunters books, movies, and tv shows. (Supernatural, anyone?) What I liked is that Blake took the conventional story line of a teen ghost hunter but threw in two very major unconventional twists.
The first twist is the MC, Cas. (Short for Casio. Isn't that a cool name?) I have read so many teen books with special teens who long to be normal. This is not the case with Cas. He's content being a loner. He has no interest in participating in high school or making friends that he's just going to have to leave behind when he goes on his next hunt. He's not interested in college. The adults in his life are the ones who fret over his abnormal life, but Cas doesn't sweat it. His analysis of high school antics is pretty hilarious.
The second twist is the insta-love. Yes, it's here, but it's not what I expected. Cas goes hunting for a ghost -- and falls in love with her. The ghost, Anna, is a bad ass, murdering, dangerous ghost. I loved Anna's strength, I loved her backstory (which just tore my heart out and made me LOVE her!), and I loved how she and Cas fell in love. I've never read a ghost story about a ghost hunter falling in love with an evil, powerful ghost. I was totally swept away by its uniqueness and the unique characters. We are all familiar with the young-woman-falls-in-love-with-old-but-sexy-vamp, and I really appreciated seeing that stereotype turned upside down in a convincing way.
Using flashbacks to spice up an otherwise slow beginning of a novel
You may not have noticed, but I am obsessed with flashbacks. This is because I really like to use them in my writing, even though I almost always end up editing them out. I've attended lots of writing conferences where flashbacks are wholeheartedly condemned. So when a writer effectively uses flashbacks, I always sit up and take note.
The beginning of the Anna Dressed in Blood is rather slow. It involves Cas and his mother moving to a new town and settling into their new house. These otherwise dull chapters are spiced up with some flashbacks to give us an idea of Cas' "superpower" and his life as a ghost hunter. I just loved it. The flashbacks kept me interested, but were not so long that they became distracting to the overall story being told.
I hope some of you guys check out this book! It's really great! Totally lives up to all of the hype. :)