Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Cas Lowood kills ghosts for a living. Well, he doesn’t really make money at it, so I suppose you’d call it more of a hobby, or a compulsion. His father was a ghost-killer when he was alive, and since his death, Cas carries his deadly athame, the tool used to kill the dead. Cas and his mother have just moved to a new town, and Cas is determined to kill the local ghost, Anna dressed in blood, a teenage girl who was murdered many years ago. Only things with Anna aren’t quite what they seem, and Cas slowly begins to not only sympathize with her, but to fall in love with her as well. He also picks up a couple of good friends who learn about his unusual vocation, and they serve the dual purpose of assisting Cas in his quest to kill Anna as well as adding some interest to the story.
I’ve discovered that I’m not the audience for ghost stories, but Kendare Blake’s book made a valiant effort to change my mind. I thought the pseudo-romantic relationship between Cas and Anna was intriguing, and I appreciated that Blake didn’t shy away from high stakes (there’s a nice body count). The climax was unexpected, but made sense in retrospect. It’s a different sort of ghost story than the norm, and it mostly worked for me.
My main problem with the book was pacing: some parts just really dragged. For these chunks of the novel, it seemed like the troupe of characters wasn’t doing anything in particular, just kind of flailing about. It gets a bit dull to read about after a couple of pages. But then it would pick up nicely and I’d be hooked for another twenty pages, until it got a bit dull again. So overall, it’s a good book, but not an outstanding one.
Angelfall by Susan Ee
The angels of the apocalypse have descended on Earth, and teenage Penryn has become caught in the middle of it. Her wheelchair-bound younger sister has been kidnapped by the angels. She must team up with another angel, Raffe, in order to rescue her. Along the way, the duo experience a significant amount of peril and intrigue, plus some romance (naturally).
I’m kind of flabbergasted by all of the positive feedback Angelfall has received, because I was very unimpressed. I think the skeleton of a good story is there, and I dug how gruesome Ee dared to be near the end of the book. But for most of the book, I was doing some serious mental eye-rolling, and it’s mostly due to the writing – it doesn’t pass muster. The book is full of awkward phrasing, clunky sentences, and cliched dialogue. Part of the reason I had a hard time getting through most of it is because it felt like a romance novel with some fantasy trappings for the first three quarters (rather than a fantasy novel with some romance). The dialogue between Penryn and Raffe tries to be clever repartee, but it just comes across as ridiculous. And I say this as a reader of romance.
Aside from the writing, I had problems with the world-building and development of ancillary characters. Put all of these lacking elements together and you quickly realize that no amount of fast-paced action can save this book.