I read the first Anna book, Anna Dressed In Blood back in 2012 and I thought it was an excellent example of a ghost story where fear is something to be fought and the future as something we have to win the right to. Despite the horror wrought and the blood spilt, the most important thing in the book was the bonds forged between the weak and the frightened to push back the dark.
Girl Of Nightmares, the sequel to Anna Dressed In Blood, sat on my TBR pile much longer than it should have done. Perhaps that’s part of the problem I had with getting in sympathy with the second book. It’s as well-written as the first. It continues to develop the magic systems that were introduced in the first book, adding some interesting twists. The relationships between the characters also work well.
Yet, at 37% I’m setting it aside. I stopped reading it a couple of weeks ago and every time I’ve reached for a book since then, something else has called to me more strongly.
The problem for me is the premise. In Anna Dressed In Blood, we met a ghost killer who’d finally met a killer ghost he didn’t want to kill. It was an original and surprising twist and it was well-executed. The premise in Girl Of Nightmares is much more familiar: Anna is in Hell and Cas will do whatever it takes to get her out. So Cas gets to play Orpheus to Anna’s Eurydice, except Anna was already dead when Cas met her, going to Hell was a sacrifice she chose to make and the killings she performed as a ghost probably justify her being there.
The book is quite captivating. Cas is obsessed. He’s haunted by nightmares in which he sees Anna being tortured. He’s lost his appetite for life, set his calling aside and put his friends at risk. Anna remains a mute, suffering figure who fuels his obsession.
So why set it aside? Maybe I’m too old or too jaded. I suspect this is meant to be romantic in that Orpheus and Eurydice way but to me, it feels like Cas is ill and that the illness is likely to kill him. Instead of cheering Cas on, I want to shake him, tell him to get a grip, let it go, move on, get real – all those things the old say to the young when confronted by a passion and optimism that they are no longer capable of. Then there are the torture dreams. No. Not something I want in my head. They’re not gratuitous but that makes them tougher to let go of.
So, if you liked Anna Dressed In Blood, you’ll probably enjoy Girl Of Nightmares. Just don’t leave eight years in between them and don’t get old and jaded in the meantime.