This book was such a fun, dark and clever little story. It has received quite a lot of hype since its release and I added to my to-read list years ago, but I didn’t know quite what to expect. I knew there was a ghost and some sort of romance, so I felt it could have easily disintegrated into some sort of juvenile, contrived insta-love – but I was pleasantly surprised. This book was a brilliant example of YA horror-romance at its best. For some reason it made me feel a little reminiscent for the old Point Horrors by the likes of R. L. Stine and Caroline B. Cooney I read as a kid, but that might just be me.
The story is narrated by a male protagonist – unusual in this type of YA, but is works. Cas Lockwood is a trained ghost hunter and high school student. He and his mother move around wherever the next hint of a ghost comes from, and we join him when he’s moving to a new town to hunt down Anna Korlov – also known as Anna Dressed In Blood.
Through eloquent, witty prose, Blake really gets the reader into the head of Cas. For a guy who lost his Dad to the hands of a ghost at a young age and has since spent his life hunting down ghosts, believing it his destiny and his vengeance, Cas is surprisingly upbeat. He lives in the shadows of regular high school life, yet he has his own charm; he makes friends easily and his asides to the reader are often laden with sarcasm and satire.
Cas is confident in his vocation and content enough in his unusual lifestyle, until he meets Anna. “She’s not just a ghost. She’s a hurricane.” More powerful and self-aware than any ghost he’s ever seen before, Anna represents a challenge for Cas, one he won’t be able to handle alone. He enlists the help of an eclectic group, including eccentric British family friend Gideon, prom queen Carmel and the local telepathic witch, Thomas. Each bring their own elements to help Cas in his quest, and these well-developed characters all get their chance to shine.
But Anna has to be the real star of this story – simultaneously terrifying and oddly sympathetic, the writer had me veering between sheer terror to near heartbreak when reading about Cas and Anna’s encounters. With her pale skin, blood-drenched dressed and uncontrollable fury, she’s definitely the stuff of nightmares but Cas begins to learn than there’s more to her than meets the eye. Cas can’t help but start to feel for Anna as he understands her story, but how can he stop her decades-long murderous rampage?
This is the first in a trilogy, but works perfectly well as a standalone novel too. Having said that, I enjoyed getting to know Cas, Anna and the other characters so much that I may have to pick up the next in the series soon.