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Book Review: Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

Cas Lowood can’t get over the fact that the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to hell and sacrificed herself to save him and his friends.  He can’t move on, even though his friends urge him to do so.  He begins to see Anna everywhere, and it starts to mess up his work as a ghost-hunter.  It’s like living in a nightmare, and Cas can’t do anything to help Anna.  Or maybe he can.  With the help of a mysterious and ancient cult, Cas might be able to cross over and help Anna find peace, once and for all.

Blake’s follow-up to last year’s successful and smart horror novel Anna Dressed in Blood offers a satisfying ending to Cas and Anna’s story.  Blake’s smart, sharp writing is infused with wit and a clever self-awareness.  A few pacing problems plague the novel, especially in its middle, but fans of the first book should find this one to be just as much of a page-turner.

Never short on suspense, Blake manages to hook the reader from the beginning and create the very real sense that Cas and his friends live in mortal danger.  Her writing is pitch-perfect, managing to straddle the line between humor and horror without ever going too far in either direction.  The suspense in the story is some of Blake’s best work, and readers will be on the edge of their seats as they wait to see what will happen.

Cas’s voice continues to be consistently authentic.  Blake manages to create a deeply-flawed character whose predicament is unique to say the least: despite the fact that Cas is in love with a gruesome, murderous ghost, readers are sympathetic and maybe even understand his desire to be with a girl who is dead.  It doesn’t have any of the campy feel of so much of the other paranormal offerings out there, because Blake doesn’t shy away from the fact that Anna is more than kind of nasty.

The book starts to feel overly long about the time Cas and Thomas head off to the UK to search for answers.  Although there are still some great thrills after their arrival, something about the novel stalled out there for this reader.  Most readers won’t have the same problem, though, and will be all too happy to keep reading about Cas’s journey.  It would’ve been nice to have a little more of Anna’s presence, though.

Funny, sharp, and well-written, Blake is an author to watch, no matter what she decides to do next.  This is great Halloween-season reading.  Recommended.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. Tor Teen: 2012. Library copy.