January 18, 2013

Kendare Blake: "Girl of Nightmares"

Title: Girl of Nightmares [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Anna (2nd of 2 books)
Author: Kendare Blake [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural, Horror
Year: 2012
Age: 12+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: More original, skillfully-crafted episodes horror fans can sink their teeth into. Cas' athame gets its own backstory. Main story gets closure.
Cons: Athame's mythology makes for some slightly boring chapters. Teen angst/doomed love has the upper hand too often.  
Will appeal to: Those who like more action and danger than the first book provided. Those who need closure about Anna.

Blurb: It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on. Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But these aren't just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears. Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favor. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: I don't want to give you the impression that this is a so-so book. Despite my not stellar rating, I kind of enjoyed it - but it just didn't live up to my expectations after reading ADIB. I thought that reading it for the second time would have helped (it did worked for me with The Time of the Ghost), but nope. I ended up feeling slightly bored and not enthralled, just like the first time. This has everything to do with the fact that the main theme of this sequel is the mythology behind the athame, the ancient order that created it and the right to its control. I give credit to Blake for building a solid mythology again, but it wasn't enough to keep me interested. Anna's fate, the possibility of saving her - all of a sudden, everything is subordinated to Cas proving he has a right to use the athame for that very purpose. He even has to go through a trial - along with an unexpected disputant - and, though they both have been raised to fight the dead, I found the trial itself unnecessarily dangerous (even if it did make for a creepy, enjoyable read...see: Suicide Forest).  The book feels uneven, exciting/interesting in parts, then slowing down here and there. Also, Cas' "dead girlfriend" mantra gets annoying. I understand he owes Anna and admires her - but not even a boy who's spending most of his life dealing with the dead is entitled to have a girlfriend from the other side. Not a practicable option, I'd say.
Anyway, let's be specific, and start at the beginning (if you haven't read ADIB...major spoilers here). [...]

Six months after Anna's sacrifice, Cas, Thomas and Carmel are still chasing ghosts together. And I'm still puzzled by Carmel getting away with anything. She's mingling with the school's freaks, but her queen bee status is intact. She comes and goes (in and out of dangerous situations) at any hour, and no one at home seems to notice or give a damn. She's even flying through a whole ocean alone later, on an afterthought, and no angry or worried parents are mentioned. Too convenient, isn't it. Anyway, back to Cas. He isn't over Anna at all, and not only because he's suddenly having visions of her everywhere. Frankly, this doomed love thing gets the arched eyebrow from me. Cas is adamant he'll go and get Anna wherever she is, and then what? date her? I hear him when he says he wants to set her free from the Obeahman, of course - but dating a dead girl is a no-no. C'mon. Anyway, I did like Anna's hauntings in the first part of the book - they were poignant and imaginative. Cas is having a hard time getting help in retrieving Anna, because it's apparently impossible, or deadly at best - but his determination has the upper hand in the end. First Morfram directs him to Aunt Riika (a deliciously sad and creepy episode), then a mysterious letter steers him toward England, where Gideon seems to keep an ancient secret. Here is where Blake loses me somehow, because - next to the doomed-love persistence, and the teen-angst vibes Cas has been giving out all the time - this gothic/fantasy turn in the story is another thing I'm not very pleased with. Also, I find it implausible that all the adults in the book - from parents to cult members - are so accepting or anxious to get these teenagers killed. Having said this, some of the best episodes can be found in the last part of the book: the Suicide Forest, Cas crossing over to Anna, their coming together again. Because fortunately, Blake chooses not to overplay Cas and Anna's reunion - and after they defeat the Obeahman (with a little, or not so little, help), she comes out with the perfect ending. Bittersweet, but perfect - unexpected and absolutely fitting at the same time.
(Note: I haven't said much, if anything, about the friends and foes in this novel, because it would have spoiled the whole thing too much. I haven't commented about the artwork either, because it simply complements the one used for the first book). 

For quotes from this books click here.
For my review of "Anna Dressed in Blood" (first installment in the series) click here.
For more Supernatural books click here.

A slightly different cover with more red
(ebook and Kindle version)

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