Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I think I sabotaged myself with this book. I got so excited about it. I read too many good reviews. When I finally read it, it couldn't live up to that high expectations.
Fundamentally, Anna Dressed in Blood was a good book. There was really some art in the writing. Full of visually evocative scenes and descriptions, this book appealed to me esthetically and it also made me feel stirrings of unease, pity, and horror. What I didn't feel was a kinship with Cas. Cas is a good guy, a good hero as well. I just didn't connect with him. I have a thing for books with a male point of view. I enjoy reading them and getting inside the head of a male protagonist. With stellar examples of monster hunters like Dean and Sam Winchester from the TV show Supernatural and Cal and Nik Leandros from the book series by Rob Thurman, Cal had some hard acts to follow. I didn't ever get beneath the surface of his sarcastic, wounded by his father's untimely death exterior. I felt like an observer. When I read books, I want to be a part of the story, and feel the emotions of the characters. That can be a dicey thing with this kind of literature, but that's one of the appeals of horror and dark fantasy. If I don't get that engagement, I feel sort of lost.
On the other side, I did feel some emotions for Anna. When we first met, I was really shocked and quite horrified. But that didn't last long (well not as much). As I came to know her, I felt pity and curiosity for her, and a strange sort of sympathy and liking. Now the author did succeed at this. I didn't understand how she could make a love story out of this idea, and she created a very young, fragile seed of one between Cas and Anna. One that I am encouraged to watch grow or at least hope for the best. Other than Cas and Anna, the characterization was sketchy. I did like that Carmel was the 'it girl' with a heart. And I liked Thomas. He's a sweetie who reminded me of my TV husband Dr. Spencer Reid on Criminal Minds for some reason.
As far as the suspense storyline, it fell somewhat short. I don't care much for modern horror, with its dependence of shock, gore, and grisly, visceral violence. I like the gothic style, where atmosphere is pivotal. What we don't see feeds our imaginations and escalates the tension we feel to a razor sharp edge. There was some of that beloved gothic appeal, but it was ruined by the injection of teen slasher style horror moments and high school "mean girl/it clique" dross. That's a big turnoff for me. While I don't feel that Blake trivializes the horrible death of teens in this book, I think that going there sort of tarnished this story for me. Also, the climax was too abrupt and I didn't quite get a strong feel or read a strong enough connection between the Anna situation and the one that had steered Cas into his career. I felt like there were embryonic tendrils there that could have bloomed beautifully with more intensive narrative. But not enough in their present form. It felt like voodoo/malevolent entity lite to me. I honestly feel that this book falls into that category of books written for the new generation of tv and movie watchers (and no offense when I say that). The stories have the basic presentation of ideas that reads like a movie, but not in the visual sense. More in the sketchbook/screenplay-basic narrative. Mainly images and snarky comments, but where's the beef fundamentally? While this is not a bad thing in itself, it's not my preferred sort of writing when it comes to novels.
I can see why this book has so much appeal. There are parts that I give an A+ too (namely the imagery and back story of Anna), but they are more sparse than I would like in a book. The overall product is vaguely unsatisfying overall. I give it four stars because of the things I liked about it. I'll keep reading this series because I do like Anna and her relationship with Cas, and Thomas, the teen who befriends Cas, sparkes with his geeky sweetness. I'd like to see what mess they get into next. And I'd like to see if Blake can develop this good idea into something more meaty in the end.
Recommend with some serious reservations.
As much as it pains me, this book turned out to be a very low rated four stars.
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