Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood was one of my absolute favorite reads last year (and of all time!) and I've anxiously been awaiting Girl of Nightmares. But, with any epically awesome first book in a series, there always comes the worry that maybe the sequel just won't live up to the epicness of the first book...readers, worry not! This sequel definitely lives up to its predecessor and will NOT disappoint.
Six months after the ghost of Anna Korlov saved Cas and his friends by opening a door to Hell and dragging herself and the deadly Obeahman into it, Cas just can't seem to let her go. Despite Thomas and Carmel's efforts to get him to join the world of the living, Cas's heart remains with the dead. And when he starts to see and hear Anna, both in his nightmares and when he's awake, Cas knows something is wrong. Anna seems tortured and in pain and Cas is afraid her spirit didn't end up where it should have. Cas's desperate search for a way to help Anna takes him and his friends on a dangerous journey across the ocean where a mysterious Order, old and new friends and maybe even Hell await them.
The story of ghost-hunting, athame weidling Cas Lowood and the fiery, captivating ghost-girl he loves, returns with a bang, punch and kick. All of Kendare Blake's razor sharp, smart writing; mastery of chills and thrills; superb world-building and character development and enthralling imagination from the first book seamlessly continue in this sequel. Girl of Nightmares easily matches its predecessor when it comes to addicting storytelling, yet this sequel has a very different feel and vibe from Anna Dressed in Blood...which, isn't a bad thing.
In the first book, the scares and chills were very much in your face in a deliciously exciting and thrilling way, whereas, in this book the creepiness and spine-tinglingness is more subtle. Instead of expecting a OMG-squealing-like-a-little-girl moment to pop up on every page, the chilling and frightening essence in this book seems to linger in the shadows, around the corners and underneath every line. Instead of grabbing you by the heart or throat, the quiet, creeping air of this story, which feels very much like its own substational, corporeal thing or character, seems to sneakily wrap itself around you and, by the time you notice it's there, it already has you completely...which, I think is far scarier of the two.
Blake takes readers and her characters deeper into the world between the living and dead and does so with such hauntingly beautiful and darkly enchanting imagery. But Blake also proves to be a master of creating emotional and psychological complexities as well. Cas's journey in this book is as much an emotional one as it is a supernaturally thrilling and scary one.
Cas continues to be one of my favorite male protags ever; he grows and develops so much in this book. I love how layered and real Cas feels. Blake does a wonderful job of balancing his strength with his vulnerability. This is a hero that continues to be irresistibly likable, relatable and easy to root for. Thomas and Carmel make the perfect sidekicks and friends for Cas. I love how well this trio meshes and works together, even though they're all so very different. A new character joins the trio in this book- Jestine. Jestine is such a dynamic, fun girl. I love her feistiness, humor and easy going attitude, but I also found her unpredictability intriguing. She really kept me and Cas on our toes.
And of course, there's Anna. Anna Korlov. Anna Dressed in Blood. Anna in Hell. Anna isn't as front and center in this book as she was in the first one, but that doesn't mean her presence isn't always felt. It definitely is. We see a different side of Anna in this book, a more vulnerable and slightly timid side, making her that much more dimensional and complex. Like Cas, I too, have fallen completely in love with the spellbinding and beautiful Anna. I love how much I love this ghost-girl!
The last few chapters had me quickly turning pages in the wee hours of the night with a racing heart and wide eyes, unable to put the book down until the very end. And that ending?! So sad, so hopeful, so unexpected, so so so good.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Girl of Nightmares is a reader's dream come true: an addicting, enticing, superbly written and developed book, with a story to die for! Fans of Anna Dressed in Blood will not be disappointed by this sequel. An absolute MUST read sequel in a MUST read series!