Cas – A ghost hunter. His father was killed by the same demon that comes after him in this book. He fell in love with Anna, the ghost he tried to set free in the first book.
Anna – Our ghost. She had been cursed by her mother and became a murderer as a result. She sacrificed herself to save Cas, Thomas and Carmel by dragging the Obeahman down to Hell.
Thomas – The geeky boy in school. With an uncle that is all into voodoo. He has a thing for Carmel. He is a witch, with significant power. He has become Cas’ best friend and helper in ghost hunting. When the Order sends Cas and Jestine to the other side through a creepy ritual, Thomas is Cas’ anchor.
Carmel – the queen bee as Cas calls her. She is the most popular girl in school. And she isn’t written to be the snotty stuck up queen bee that we normally see in this genre. She and Thomas have a thing, but its not exactly clear what that thing is. She and Thomas love each other, but it’s an odd relationship. She also helps with the ghost hunting. She decides she can’t do the hunting anymore, but end up going to London anyway.
Morfran Starling Sabin – Thomas’ grandfather.
the Obeahman – the demon/villian after Cas. He also killed Cas’ father. He is a flesh eater and an eater of essence.
Gideon – a friend of Cas’ father. Turns out he does know a lot more than he let on as he is a member of the “Order of the Biodag Dubh (Order of the Black Dagger).
Aunt Riika – a family friend of Thomas’ and Morfan’s. She is a Finnish witch. She is a ghost. She also the one who explains that the knife is a doorway to the other side, so that Cas can get to Anna.
Jestine – a “warrior” who has been trained by the Order to take over for Cas. She send Cas a picture of the order, holding fake daggers, to lure Cas to London.
The Order – a secret society who forged the knife many years ago. They forged it and bonded it with the blood from Cas’ ancestors, creating the line of the warriors – those who send the ghosts away. But they are fanatical and they believe that all ghosts need to be sent over. They have set up a test, in the hopes that Cas will be killed, so they can replace him with Jestine. They intend to let Cas get killed by letting him try to get to Anna (since the ritual to do se required that Cas stab himself) and then to have Jestine return with the knife and melt it down and re-forge it with her blood.
Colin Burke – a member of the Order. He is the one pushing Jestine and the tradition; he wants Cas’ dead and the knife to pass to Jestine.
Cas is a ghost hunter of sorts. He hunts down ghosts that in their lingering hurt people. He uses his father’s knife to “kill” those ghosts and set them free from the cycle of violence they are stuck in. In the first book Anna, a ghost who was murdering people because she was cursed by her mother, sacrificed herself to save Cas and take the Obeahman to Hell. But Cas fell in love with her. Cas has stayed in Thunder Bay and he is seeing Anna in other ghosts that he is going after. He hears her, he sees her in his dreams. Convinced that he needs to save her and bring her ghost back from the other side, he sets out to find out how to do it. First, he turns to Morfin. He doesn’t want to help – warns that Cas should leave it alone. Gideon says the same thing. But Morfindoes send Cas and Thomas to Aunt Riika and Cas discovers that there’s more to the knife – it is a doorway.
Carmel and Thomas break up because Carmel decides she can’t really do the ghost hunting thing anymore, even though she loves Thomas. Then, Cas gets a picture in the mail of a group of people all in robes and holding knives that look just like his. So he decides to visit Gideon. Cas’ mom asked Cas to remember that he is her son and not pay to high a price. AndThomas goes with. On the way from the airport, they are attacked by Jestine, but Thomas stops her with a dark spell. Gideon tells Cas he shouldn’t have come but now that he has, he will be tested by the Order. Gideon was in the order but isn’t really anymore. It seems that the Order will “help” Cas bring Anna back, but there will be a price. Cas puts is all together, that his blood and possibly life are the price and despite what he promised his mother, he goes through with the ritual to get to Anna anyway.
First, the group needs to get from Gideon’s to the Order. They pass through a haunted forest, noted as the Suicide Forest (see review below for more on this) where they have to battle all kinds of ghosts or zombies to get to the Order. When they emerge from the woods, they are taken to a compound for the real test. The ritual begins, each of Cas and Jestine choosing an anchor, because like how Anna comes to Cas because of the link between her and the knife, a link needs to be created between them and someone in the circle. Once they stab themselves and get to the other side, Jestine takes off, saying she has a plan.
Cas finds Anna and Anna and the Obeahman are linked – where they are is the creation of the Obeahman. Cas starts to battle him and Jestine eventually joins in the battle. Cas and Jestine seem to be dying. Cas figures out that if he cuts, with his knife, the spirits free from the Obeahman that is how to defeat him and separate Anna from him. Once he manages to do that, the Hell he is in turns into a good place for Anna. He finally realizes that he can’t take Anna with him and Anna won’t even realize it since the place has turned into heaven for Anna (complete with a version of Cas). Cas thinks Jestine died, but she didn’t. And Cas finally leaves and head back to Thomas.
Turns out Jestine found the metal that the knife was made of (and lots of it) and she brings it back to have her own knife made. Cas survives and will head back to America with his mom, Thomas and Carmel. Thomas and Carmel are back together. The Order, Gideon thinks, will leave Cas alone since they have Jestine and the material to make another knife.
Other Important Things to Remember for Later: Cas is going back to Thunder Bay. He let Anna go. He seemed to like Jestine.
Having just finished Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake, I find that I need to refresh my memory with what I thought of the first Anna installment. So, here’s how I started that review: “Want to spend some time with a creepy scary ghost story? Then check out Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. It’s not the creepiest or the scariest but it’s not for the faint of heart either.”
Wish I could say the second was as wonderful as the first. I am not saying the second is bad. But there were definitely places where I was a frustrated reader. Maybe is was the fact that the author seems to have built such a believable character and yet that believability is stripped quickly and utterly when Cas gets to London. Maybe it’s that the first was a pretty cool ghost story, with a little voodoo thrown in. Now, the turn to a secret society is unexpected and yet at the same time almost cliche in this genre. Maybe it was that while I expected Anna to be back (duh, it is the second in the “Anna” series), I expected a better plot. Or maybe it was that the story seemed to final, I was surprised that there really wasn’t a better story.
Before thinking that I just said the same thing twice, I see a subtle difference between story and plot. I look at the story as the overall message, the summary of what happens to the protagonists. It is where they are at the beginning, and how they get to where they are at the end. In a general sense. I see the plot as the individual steps and actions taken within the story to get the characters from the beginning to the end. The plot is the details. The story is the path and the plot are the steps taken on the path.
So, here’s where we are: Cas is hearing, seeing and dreaming of Anna. He believes he can bring her ghost back. And he sets out on a course to do so. That course takes him to London where he encounters the Order of the Black Dagger. The Order thinks his choices, his selectivity in choosing only to send dangerous ghosts over is straying from the path of the order. And it is the order who created the dagger in the first place. The order means to replace Cas with Jestine, someone they have trained and selected. Cas and Jestine cross over each with their own true purpose. And while on the other side, they fight the Obeahman (again for Cas).
I think I would have enjoyed a story that was again creepy and ghosty. This was instead not really either. Since we were familiar with the Obeahman from the first book, he wasn’t really creepy. And Anna was downright scary in the first book – she certainly wasn’t here. This installment felt more like an extended epilogue than something that deserved an entire book.
There are some small problems I have with some of the details though. For example, the references to the suicide forest. There is a place in Japan that has earned that reputation; Scotland though? I couldn’t find anything similar. But the way the author sets that up, and has Cas comment on how famous it is, I expected to find some truth in that.
The dialogue is one of the best parts of both installments. The realism is wonderful and regressing. There is just enough rawness to feel like we are really listening to teenagers. The “order of the blah blah blah” not only made me chuckle, but made me feel like I was listening to the conversation, not reading it. That to me, is the way to tell
Found this quote on the author’s webpage: “Kendare Blake writes like an aerialist; each lyrical leap is expert and fearless, leaving the reader reeling with breathless anticipation. Her books are truly magical.” Wish I could talk to the author of that quote – I would ask her to show me where these lyrical leaps are.