With her duology of Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares, Kendare Blake has created an intelligent, thoughtful, and sensitive portrayal of how, and why, the dead maintain their hold on the living, literally and figuratively. It doesn’t hurt that Blake has crafted a deeply appealing YA love story in the process.
These are the kind of books that will appeal immensely to fans of Lish McBride’s Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, and the first couple of seasons of Supernatural (when the Monster of the Week episodes were more frequent, and the show was still striking that beautiful balance between being dark and creepy, and being deliciously, totally inappropriately funny). These books will also appeal immensely to fans of McBride’s work and the Supernatural series because, like those stories, at its core Blake’s duology is all about family.
The story of Anna Dressed in Blood, and the events that grow out of it in Girl of Nightmares, begins with (Theseus) Cas(sio) Lowood. Cas kills the dead, moving from town to town with his mother (a practicing witch), so, naturally, Cas falls in love, hard, with a girl who’s already dead—a girl who was murdered long before Cas was even born. It’s a deceptively simply premise, because the two novels that frame that love story are so much larger than just that central conceit.
Built around a painful story of first, and real, love, is the story of a child haunted by the death of his father, unable, or unwilling, to form connections with the world around him for fear of losing those relationships as well. It’s a story of personal growth, told in achingly real terms by an outsider who is still very much a teenager. And here is where this book succeeds in its YA vein: Cas is a teenager trying very hard to grow...