As a child back in the Philippines, I grew up celebrating “Araw ng mga Patay” (Day of the Dead) on the 1st of November every year. On that day, my family and I would go to visit the graves of our dead and light candles in their memories; the most vivid imprint of those early visits on my young mind was the long, slender, white candles that we would leave burning by their graves in the city cemetery. Hallowe’en wasn’t that big a deal to me. In fact, I don’t think I knew about it until I hit age 10 or so and began to be really into YA lit, where I read about costumes, trick or treating, and caramel apples. Hence I have decided, in the spirit of my cultural celebration of the dead, that I will post about creepy things (songs, movies, books, etc) in November, instead of October, which is traditionally Hallowe’en month. Here’s the first of several!
Anna Dressed In Blood was a book recommended by the good folks over at Book Riot. It was an amazing read – Kendare Blake takes his reader and throws them right into the thick of things. There was no respite from the fast-paced storytelling – I felt that it was all going at this crazy breakneck speed and I had to keep up or I would fall off the wagon. From the book’s opening sentence that gives you a taste of what Theseus Cassius Lowood’s occupation is, to the way the suspense is built up around the story’s pivotal scenes, it is evident that Blake is a storyteller who knows exactly how to affect his audience. What makes Anna Dressed In Blood magical is that you can almost hear the music building up in the background, swelling to a crescendo as things come to a bloody climax.
I also loved his ability to intersperse details of the macabre with little bits of his character’s everyday life, which, as you come to find out, are actually integral building blocks of how the character is woven into the fabric of the main narrative. In this book, everything fits like a puzzle piece. But I don’t mean to make it sound like his writing is mechanical and dry – no, far from it. Blake’s writing voice is confident and true, and he tells his story with the mastery of one who knows exactly how all the gears turn. He imbues his characters with such spirit that they are not overpowered by Cas, who as the protagonist is the brightest candle in the book. Anna, especially, was painted as so very human, and distinct from all the other ghosts that Cas has encountered. It was beautiful to read how Blake constructed Anna’s story around the scaffolding of her dress – he pulls off the reveal wonderfully.
I will readily admit that I did not see the twist in Anna’s story coming. While I was already assuming the worst in my head about why she was more formidable than the regular ghost, especially with the introduction of the tidbit that her mother and stepfather kept a boarding house, Blake’s perfect reveal had my mouth hanging open. Anna’s death is a powerful event, humanized by Anna, demonized by the killer. Don’t Google it, don’t spoil the surprise. The story of Anna Dressed In Blood is bloody fantastic, and well worth the read.
Notable quotes: “Instead I find a ghost with the strength of a storm, black eyes, and pale hands, not a dead person at all but a dead goddess. Persephone back from Hades, or Hecate half-decayed.”
Rating: 4/5, would read again, would definitely not mind seeing this on the big screen.