Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood  - Kendare Blake

Uhm. Horror. Really?


I don't see well in the dark. I never have done and it freaks me the fuck out. The yard where I keep my horses is not well lit. And unfortunately during winter I have no choice but to be there when it's dark. I go into the barn. I hit the light switch and it takes two agonising minutes for the lights to actually warm up and brighten. In those two minutes all manner of ghastly, icky, terrifying things crawl towards me through the shadows. My chest constricts, a shot of adrenaline bursts through my bloodstream and my eyeballs begin to quiver. I see myself torn apart by ghosts, dragged helpless into some dark corner and left to bleed. I really don't do darkness. This is pathetic as a logical and intelligent adult but this is the price I pay for a dangerously over-active imagination. Of course the lights illuminate and all I'm left with is a barn full of horses quietly chewing on hay looking at me like "What the fuck is your problem" and I glance around, anxious that no-one else has seen my shameful display of completely unfounded fear.


The things I see creeping towards me in the barn, albeit in my imagination, are infinitely more terrifying than anything Kendare Blake created in Anna Dressed in Blood. The horror in this book is massively disappointing. I just failed to be horrified. Sure there's more disembowelment in the book but it just didn't really cut it. Want to read a truly terrifying book? Read Haunted by Chuck Pahlanuik. That's some messed up shit right there. That book is stomach turning. There's things in that book that can never be unread however much I wish it. That book makes me worry for Mr Pahlanuik. But Anna Dressed in Blood? Lame. The description wasn't vivid enough. The events not shocking enough. And I'm not even a fan of horror. You can tell from my nighttime barn-terrors that I am a massive wimp. So to say that I wasn't in the least bit creeped out by this is really saying something.


The story goes that Theseus Cassio Lowood (Cas to his buddies) is ghost-hunter extraordinaire, keeping alive a family occupation following his father's brutal murder 10 years previously. He receives tip-offs and then drags his long suffering, white-witch mother across the country to pursue these deadly apparitions. When he learns about Anna, nicknamed Anna Dressed in Blood - the angriest and most murderous of all his previous assignments - he high-tails in to Thunder Bay, Ontario to take her out. What he discovers there shocks and surprises him (and only him. I was merely vaguely alarmed) when he is forced to confront the deadliest force of them all.


Cas pissed me the fuck off, the cocky little dick.


"I make my way to her table, seeing eyes growing wider as I do. Ten or so other girls probably just developed instantaneous crushes on me."


Wow Cas, your life is so hard. Must be terrible being so smoking hot. What a horrible burden for you to bear being so damn irresistible:


"Girls have always come easy. I don't know why that is, exactly. Maybe it's the outsider vibe and a well-placed brooding look. Maybe it's something I think I see sometimes in the mirror, something that reminds me of my father. Or maybe I'm just damn easy on the eyes."




Cas grates on my fucking soul. He views women as weak, newborn kittens, being constantly surprised that his friend Carmel can even tie her own shoe laces with her tiny, little lady-arms. He gives his mother no credit for her strength in raising him alone through the grief of losing her husband and her bravery in facing her own demons. "The women must go home" he proclaims every time there's so much as a stiff breeze. Cas - you're not being chivalrous, you're being goddam disrespectful. Every single girl aside from Carmel is lumped together into a single giggling, flirty, blushing being with as much strength as a plastic bag caught in the wind. This sexism bugged me as much as the lack of horror. It was so glaring. Cas' mother remained at home, chained to the stove while he ventured out to slay dark and dangerous beasts. Please.


And why exactly does Cas take it upon himself to fight these ghosts? Dunno. Something to do with avenging his father? But how does roaming America and Canada, stabbing the undead bring his father's actual murderer to justice? And why is Anna his final challenge to face before he does go after his father's killer? And while we're on the subject, who is Cas' father? What's his back story? And what exactly is the deal with the athame? There's a lot of unanswered questions in this book right there alongside some pretty fucked up logic. Like, what's happening with the goddam timeline? Do Canadian kids have school seven days a week (I know my sister didn't but maybe they're just super strict in the Thunder Bay area) and there's no way in goddam hell that Cas has spent two months with Anna. A couple of weeks maybe. And why are the police in this town so lax?


Policeman: Hey, have you seen that kid who went missing?
Cas: Nope. Not since we (supposedly) dropped him off like, 10 miles from his home in the middle of the night for a rather unbelievable reason.
Policeman: Aah. Well. That's alright. Just carry on then. We're gonna have a quick look around the woods and that and then we'll probably just leave it.
Cas: Okay. Sounds good.


Yeah. It's really easy to feel so safe in Thunder Bay. The police are really on top of things there ..... They just don't investigate any murders ever so just don't go getting yourself killed, okay?


And there were a few murders in there. But don't worry, only people who we didn't really like were ever in any kind of danger. All our brave heroes are safe. Authors: don't shy away from making things of consequence happen. Sometimes shit happens. Sometimes people we like die. At least if one of the main characters had died the other characters in the story perhaps could have mustered up some emotion. There was zero reaction to finding classmates ripped apart, classmates torn to pieces, classmates eaten. You'd think this was a regular occurrence in sleepy Thunder Bay.


Kid 1: Whatever happened to that Will guy? You know? That super popular kid on the football team.
Kid 2: Oh didn't you hear? Something broke into his house and just bit chunks out of him. Blood everywhere.
Kid 1: Aah. Okay ..... Do you know when this biology assignment is due?
Kid 2: Tomorrow.
Kid 1: Cool man.


C'mon guys !!! I wanna see more than one paragraph of mild alarm when you discover the bloody dismembered corpse of a person you've known since forever. This is some messed up shit. This is the kinda thing that scars a person for life. And yet these kids don't give a single fuck. Not one.


Oh course it could all be down to Cas' rather unreliable narration. He does have a habit of skipping over things. Perhaps his friends Thomas and Carmel were in fact writhing on the floor, or paralysed with horror but this was failed to be conveyed by him as a helluva lot of the information was. He gave us no details of his past exploits, could find no way of describing his peers other than as raging cliches and was distinctly cold about pretty much everything that went down. And could anyone tell me if his observations were supposed to be humorous? Were they?!! There was nothing even remotely amusing about Cas. He was as funny as a block of ice recounting it's daily routine:


""Land of the Dead? Is that what you dream about?” she asks. “Boy who kills ghosts for a living?"" (Anna)
"“No. I dream about penguins doing bridge construction. Don’t ask why.” (Cas)




Couple this with the weird comparisons and awkward phrasings ("I should've known Gideon would spill. He's like a surrogate parent. Not like a stepfather, exactly - more like a godfather, or a sea horse who wants to stuff me into his pouch.") and we have a really fucking irritating narrator on our hands.


Cassandra Clare tells me on the front cover that this book is "Spellbinding and romantic". I don't know about spellbinding. I don't think I felt particularly spellbound. But I do know that this book has no business arriving with the Paranormal Romance label attached. There is next to nothing romantic about this story. Cas falling for Anna (did that happen? Did it?!!) was so vague I was barely aware that it even happened. I think there might have been a kissing scene near the end but I can't be sure because I sneezed during that sentence and kinda missed it. There's lots of my Anna this and that but honestly? I just wasn't feeling it, and it had that distinctively distasteful stench of instalove all over it. Cas and Anna never talked about anything other than her death and the circumstances surrounding this and how she feels about being dead. And DEATH. And DYING. And DEAD. This doesn't seem like a good basis for a romantic relationship but then the kids in Thunder Bay are kinda unique seeming in the way they handle shit, so maybe this is just how they roll.


The end of Anna Dressed in Blood was just beyond lame. Like, so lame I thought it might never walk again. Like, so lame I thought there may be nothing else for it but to administer a lethal injection. This weird guy just rocking up. And then a thing happens. And there's something about poisoning? And then there's a hole in the floor and the house vanishes. And then there's school to go to so we better all get a good night's sleep. Yeah - I don't really know what happened there. It just kinda imploded into a giant shit-storm of nothingness. I did not care for it.


Yeah, I'm not fighting my way to the book store to snag my copy of the next book, Girl of Nightmares. I'm much more interested in Kendare Blake's newest series Antigoddess. I'm having a hard time believing these two books were written by the same author. One kicks ass. The other? Well, meh.


Ciao for now my friends!!