Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story...
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.
I hadn't initially thought that this book would manage to be scary, action-packed, heart-wrenching and romantic all at once - after all (to me, at least), horror and romance do not go hand-in-hand - and then there was the fact that the romance was between a ghost hunter and a ghost! But I was proven wrong on this, and I'm so glad I was!
On the back of the book (at least, on the UK paperback), there is a little circle that says 'Not for younger readers', and this is absolutely the case. There is very strong language in places, but aside from that, the scenes - particularly involving Anna - can get very graphic, gory and violent.
I have never come across a book like this in YA fiction before, so I would definitely say that it's an older teen read.
I'm not usually a fan of anything gory or violent, myself, but I found that, in this case, it didn't really bother me. There were a couple of moments when I couldn't help but go "ewww", but at the end of it, it was just a part of the story (that wasn't there just because - it had a purpose), and I loved that story, so I was completely fine with it.
As soon as I read the very first page of this, I was instantly gripped. We're introduced to Cas, and his way of life, whilst he's in the middle of what he does best - hunting down and killing a malicious, murderous ghost. I think it's because we're just thrown right into the thick of things, that it's so immediately absorbing, but I carried on being interested in what was happening, even after this initial excitement had calmed down. I wasn't bored for even a second, throughout the entire book!
I loved the turn that the plot took, in terms of Anna. I hadn't expected to like, or even sympathise with her, but not only did I do that, I also (like Cas), fell totally in love with her! Her own, personal story is so interesting, but so horrific, that I physically couldn't stop turning the pages, as what happened to her in the final moments of her life was revealed. I can't wait to see how her story will develop in the sequel!
There seemed to be so many different story lines criss-crossing through this book, but I don't think it would have been the same without any of them. Obviously there is Cas and Anna's story, and Anna's personal story, but we also have Cas' background story, with how he became a ghost hunter, and his life, moving around to hunt the dangerous spirits that plague humanity. There's also what happened to his Dad, which eventually becomes much more important to the story.
I also didn't find the story at all predictable. There are parts that are perhaps easier to guess, or not quite as shocking as other parts, and I did have a gut feeling about one of the twists in the book (and I was right about it), but I still wouldn't call it predictable. I didn't see the ending coming at all, and so I have no idea where the story will go in the sequel. All of it is extremely exciting, and I can't wait to see how it all continues. It's not a case of wanting to know what happens, but more a case of needing to know.
The various characters in the book are definitely worth mentioning. Obviously we have the mostly solitary, but brave and mysterious Cas, and the frightening, terrible, yet somehow amiable and alluring Anna, but we also have a whole family of other wonderful characters.
There's Thomas; an awkward and slightly nerdy amateur witch, and his eccentric Grandfather, Morfran. We also have the 'queen bee' of the school, Carmel, who is far from what we usually expect from her kind of character. Cas' mum is also a great character, and one I ended up really liking, despite her fairly minimal role. She has been through so much in the past, and she's still strong enough to let Cas do what he needs to do, despite the dangers that face him. She's really supportive, and I love her for that!
There is another, incredibly sinister character, who I would love to mention in much more detail, but I can't - that would be telling! - you'll just have to read it, and find out for yourselves. But I can tell you that they are creepy to the extreme, and such a great antagonist!
As you can tell, all of these characters are so well-developed and distinct from one another. All of them feel so completely real that they could almost walk straight off the page - which in Anna's case, could be pretty frightening! You know it's a good read when you actually physically ache for a fictional character!
Some people have said that the hype this book received when it first came out, ended up building their expectations too high, and that the book then turned out not as good as they'd hoped and been told, but this was certainly not the case for me.
I'm not usually great with horror, but I didn't find this that frightening - although this may be a problem for some readers, who prefer a scary read, it wasn't a problem for me. I loved every moment of it, and I definitely loved it more than I thought I would at the beginning. I can't wait to read more!!
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