There are MEGA spoilers to both books. I wish there was a way for me to keep this spoiler free but it’s not possible. It’s really not possible. LEAVE! GO READ IT! I BEG YOU TO READ IT PLEASE READ IT!
A while ago, I posted this rant about what I hate in a lot of YA Fiction, though honestly it was mostly about the Paranormal Romance section of YA fiction, where I can barely ever find a book without these problems.
But I have found it.
I have found the paranormal romance which I absolutely adore and love and makes me want to cry because it’s over and why would you do this to me Kendare Blake how did you make me have so many feelings over paranormal romance, the one section of YA fiction that consistently continues to disappoint me and I can’t get over how much I love this series.
So a few months ago, I did a review of Anna Dressed in Blood, and while I was gushing (and having withdrawal from FMA:B, which I then got Yanni addicted to, and now she sings the theme tune to torment me because somehow she has gotten over the ending and yet it still haunts me to the brink of wanting to curl up in a ball and die because it’s over), it was the first book in a duology, and I was being pretty brief, as I have learned that the first book can go very downhill very easily. A lot of the first book was set up, so it was hard to review without knowing if all these questions would be resolved and if these characters would develop further.
So this review is going to be me just constantly ecstatic over why this is the best paranormal romance I’ve read and why you should all go and read it and why I spent about ten minutes rocking back and forth on the floor, staring into nothing, trying to get over the fact that I was never going to read about Cas’ pure sass again.
For those of you who are still here even though you haven’t read either of these books, then here’s a quick summary. Cas (the most awesome protagonist to exist in paranormal romance) falls in love with a murderous ghost (the most awesome love interest to exist in paranormal romance), and then loads of stuff goes down and it’s really awesome.
NOW PLEASE LEAVE BEFORE I RUIN THIS BOOK FOR YOU PLEASE JUST GO AND READ AND EXCERPT AND IF YOU LIKE IT THEN BUY IT OR BORROW IT OR SOMETHING I DON’T WANT TO RUIN AN AMAZING SERIES FOR YOU.
For all of you still left, hi, I’m guessing you’ve read Girl of Nightmares (OR GET OUT AND GO READ IT PLEASE I’M BEGGING YOU NOT TO READ ON WITH THIS REVIEW), so you don’t need a plot summary, but there are probably a few left who still haven’t read it (PLEASE READ IT), so let’s give a summary anyway.
Cas is having nightmares and visions of Anna, and what looks like her committing suicide and getting tortured over and over again, and then goes to try to save her from it.
I would like to say the ending but I can’t because the ending was amazing even if it broke my heart.
And I may have teared up because I love these characters so damn much and Cas why do you have to go and be so noble and awesome but of course you would because you’re Cas Lowood and damnit. (on a side note, apparently it’s spelled dammit, but I really hate that spelling, so I’m going to ignore it.)
Did it remind anyone else of Doctor Who? Like the suicide forest scene was kind of like the weeping angels, and the bit with Anna at the end reminded me of when Ten leaves Rose but there’s like other Ten in Journey’s End (I can’t remember which episode it is), but whatever, it might just be me watching too much Doctor Who.
I am saving characters for last, because that is a mega big gush over how much I loved them, so instead I’m going to try and cover all the ways bad books fail and how Girl of Nightmares prevails to kick their asses.
1. Likeable Main Character
I’m not going to go into this, since this is an entire list on it’s own, but Cas is pure sass. My favourite thing about the Anna series is that we get to spend all this time in Cas’ head, listening to his dry, funny comments about the stupid people around him and yet does not come off as obnoxious or annoying. But more on that later.
And he’s not a creepy abusive stalker, so that’s always a plus in YA fiction.
2. Likeable Love Interest
Anna, unlike most seemingly bad but actually nice and reformable paranormal love interests, is actually both terrifying and loveable. First, she kills. She’s not all talk and no action, she actually rips people apart and has a basement full of dead bodies of her victims. She’s gruesome with blood coming all off her and it’s bloody creepy, seriously, it’s gross and haunting and vivid. She’s pretty, but Cas isn’t in love with her just because he’s lusting after her body, he actually loves her. You can tell how much he loves her, because even when she’s in her creepy goddess mode with black veins and bloody eyes, he still loves her (that and how can you not be truly in love with someone if you do THAT at the end).
3. The Romance
You actually root for Cas. It’s genuinely sweet and funny yet not perfect (come on, first she tries to murder him and then she’s also dead and he accuses her of murdering a jogger), but it’s also pretty interesting to see whether Cas loves her because she’s her, or because he’s got this weird fascination with ghosts, and she’s like the epitome of weird ghost stuff. He even says how boring living people are, this boy who’s entire life has basically been bombarded with ghost hunting and ghost killing and this gruesome interest in ghosts.
Also, come on, I don’t know how you can argue that their romance is not adorable. When Cas finds Anna, it’s not mushy or overbearing or whatever, it’s just adorable. They don’t have delusions that this love will defeat anything and is stronger than anything in the world and no one is as in love as they are (cough twilight cough), AND THEN THE END AND I CAN’T EVEN TALK ABOUT IT WITHOUT FEELING PHYSICAL PAIN.
And it’s not driven by lust, it’s not insta-love (I think it was more a fascination for Cas that became love once he got to know her, it started with his fascination because he’s so in love with his ghost hunting life. At least that’s what I think it is), and Cas acts how an actual teenage guy would act if he was in love (at least I’m presuming, I don’t know, guys of the world please tell me if I’m wrong).
4. The Scary Stuff is Actually Freaking Creepy
Oh my god. Some of this stuff is freaking messed up. Cas’ constant nightmares of Anna commiting “suicide” over and over again and when she had half a face and she was bleeding and cuts were appearing on her arms… that’s real creepy stuff.
5. The Writing Style
Not only is it perfectly suited to Cas’ voice, but it’s this perfect mixture of dry humour and gruesome images that are described gorgeously. For example:
- “His skin is black as a struck match, cracked and oozing liquid metal heat, like he’s covered by a cooling layer of lava. The eyes stand out bright white. I can’t make out from this distance if they have corneas. God I hope they have corneas. I hate that creepy weird-eye sh*t.” (censored because we need to be at least slightly PG)
Also, Kendare Blake does not shy away from swearing (like we try to), because that’s realistic. We’re inside a seventeen year old boy’s head, I really doubt he doesn’t swear inside his head or out loud. But she doesn’t overuse it like a trope that’s trying to make Cas sound young, he uses it when average people would actually swear. AND he makes pop culture references, which add to his believability as a character (unlike some authors who you can tragically tell can remember what it’s like to be a teenager, but like twenty years ago so everything comes off as so damn dated)
6. The Covers
Unrelated, but oh my god the covers are gorgeous, I mean just look at them:
They are absolutely gorgeous. They never have to make second editions of this series ever, because these covers are absolutely perfect. The writing and the imagery and the colour scheme and the girl and the continuity, it’s all just perfect perfect perfect perfect perfect. And guess what, it actually relates to the content of the book. It’s not a girl holding a flower and a strawberry and looking longingly out to the reader, then actually about freaking badass fairy-zombie detectives (NB, this book does not exist, if it does then I MUST READ IT).
7. The Ending
God freaking damn the ending was simultaneously the best and the worst ending.
The best, because it was a damn good ending and the best scenario that could have come out of their situation. If Anna stayed, then she would just watch Cas grow old and die and their relationship would never last. The only other way would be for Cas to die and join Anna, and as much as he loves her, he’s not going to sacrifice everything he has for her because he actually (GASP) has common sense!
8. The Minor Characters
It is rare to have minor characters that are actually likeable and are there with their own story instead of just as a plot device.
Truth be told the books could have been told from Carmel, Thomas or Anna’s point of view (though they would not be nearly as good without Cas’ sass), because they each have their own opinion and own thing going on at that point. And, get this, they’re all likeable.
Even though Carmel deserts Cas and Thomas, you understand why. She never asked for a life in ghost hunting, she’s not suddenly going to give up her perfect grades and her set out future and stable career just to chase down adventure, she’s had her own life planned out and she actually has a choice of leaving it. She’s being selfish, sure, but she’s allowed to be selfish. No one in real life is completely selfless, because being that selfless is dangerous, because throwing your life away for someone else is unfair to you. Carmel is believable and likeable (and damn awesome in the end against the stupid Order of the Black Dagger). And she’s also not a stereotype (Marcie Miller you could have been this, look at what potential you had), she’s the most popular girl in school and she’s beautiful and blonde, but she’s also a badass and extremely smart and not a sandwich (which is my word for a different word that I’m not allowed to say on this blog).
And do I need to even cover Thomas? He’s awesome. He’s a nerd and awkward and still badass and awesome.
Even Jestine (who nearly became the third point of the love triangle from when I first met her, but then transitioned into something way more awesome instead) was a great character. She’s basically a girl version of Cas, except in a very different situation, and you see Cas’ rivalry and distrust of her and you don’t like her because of it, but at the same time you can see the exact same events panning out if Cas and Jestine swapped places, Cas would act exactly as Jestine does, and that’s what makes it really interesting. That and this constant paranoia I had over Jestine whether she was good or bad, whether she was going to back stab them or save them.
Cas’ mum is actually nice.
I know, it shocked me too.
Most parents in these books are either dead or always absent leaving the house conveniently free for lots of making out sessions. But Cas’ mum is actually relevant, and though she doesn’t want Cas to do all this stuff, you understand why, I mean he’s her teenage son. She’s lost her husband to the same ghost that her own son wants to up against, but at the same time she knows that he needs to do this. She’s also funny and embarrassing and a badass. It’s nice to see a parent who isn’t this bland plank of wood that most of them are in YA Fiction.
There is a plot in the books. A plot exists. It’s not this random, thrown together thing just to add to the tension in the make out sessions, and the guy isn’t all seemingly heroic and saves the girl whenever she’s in danger (Anna kicks Cas’ ass easily), it’s both sad and intriguing and interesting and not overshadowed by the romance. Round of a freaking applause.
Theseus Cassio Lowood
He is officially one of my favourite characters to exist in YA Fiction.
I don’t have a list of favourite characters in YA Fiction, (I started to list some of my favourite characters, but I just can’t because the list is way too long and then I have about 10 from skulduggery pleasant and the book thief and it just gets too damn long, and then obviously Hayden and Leo and Todd and Viola and Zin and Tyson and no, stop, I can’t do this, it’s going to take forever), but Cas would definitely be somewhere on it if it existed.
If I could think of anyway to describe him, it would be like the best possible cross of Leo Valdez and Jace. Like he is a bit of a smartass, really kickass, angsty at times and arrogant at other times, but he’s also awkward and feels like the third wheel and is likeable and smart. The funny thing is, usually my favourite characters are the secondary ones (with a few exceptions) but it might be because Cas really isn’t the protagonist of this story, it’s Anna. The whole story is Anna’s story, it starts with her curse, and ends with her freedom. It’s all about Anna, the entire plot, Cas is just a part of it (a pivotal point, but still a point), so maybe that’s why I love him so much. But without further ado:
Reasons why Theseus Cassio Lowood Is The Best Male Lead in Paranormal Romance
1. Even though he’s a self-admitted smartass, he doesn’t come off as obnoxious (at least, not unbelievably so).
2. He’s arrogant, and he has a right to be. He’s a freaking teenage ghost hunter. And he’s stubborn yet determined, which can sometimes make him irrational, but altogether the fact that he actually has faults make him a great character. LISTEN. CHARACTERS NEED FAULTS, AUTHORS. READ THIS BOOK AND LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES.
3. He’s not selfish. He loves Anna enough to let her go (even though I wish he was selfish BECAUSE WHY CAS WHY JUST BECAUSE ANNA’S HAPPY DOESN’T MEAN YOU’LL BE FINE AS WELL DAMN YOU FOR BEING SO DAMN NOBLE), because we see that even though he can be annoying and arrogant and cold on the outside, he’s really got this heart of gold on the inside. He’s willing to let her go and he can actually live without he, unlike some people. He’s not some crazed suicidal teenager just because his love is gone, he accepts it and he tries to move on, even though he loves her, because the thought of her being happy is all that he needs (Read New Moon if you don’t understand what I’m talking about. Bella and Edward are insane and way too suicidal over people they’ve only known a few months).
4. He’s not this over-angsty guy, and doesn’t just sit around all depressed about his dad dying. He has his moments, but those moments are believable and do not take up entire chapters of him just sitting around moping about how hard his life is. Instead, he deals with it by throwing himself into ghost hunting, not realising that he’s only doing so because he’s trying to fill this gap his dad made, by trying to live up to what he thinks he should be. And he angsts over something legitimate, come on, his dad got eaten by a freaking ghost.
5. He is not a creep. Thank you, YA Fiction gods, for giving me a character that’s not a goddamn creep, he isn’t a stalker or a weirdo (you know, apart from trying to murder his would-be girlfriend), he’s just a normal guy with a not so normal hobby.
6. He doesn’t over romanticise stuff, which is such a nice relief. His love for Anna does not make him this crazed-obsessed guy. He even hates how much he loves her, because he realises how soft he’s becoming and how it’s getting in the way of his ghost hunting.
7. He is a sarcastic, witty person who makes pop culture references. How can you not love him? He compares Anna to Neo from the Matrix, he’s compared to the ghostbusters and Buffy and he thinks superheroes are ridiculous in their spandex.
8. He somehow still remains the underdog, which makes me root for him. In the first book, we see that Cas is pretty awesome, he’s pretty exceptional, whereas in this book, we see more and more that he’s completely out of his depth. Everyone thinks he’s crazy for trying to go to hell just to save his girlfriend, and we see Jestine show him up more than once. He’s the third wheel, he’s not trusted by his friends, he’s seeing visions of his girlfriend murdering herself, he’s an outcast at school who doesn’t give a damn what other people think, he has no idea what to do, and we want him to win against all odds. Which just makes the ending make me want to cry more.
9. He’s smart and has common sense. We’re not told he’s smart, we just know he is because he acts smart. Unlike characters we are constantly told are smart with perfect grades and ivy-league schools but have no working brain cells, Cas actually thinks things through instead of jumping to idiotic conclusions (cough Nora cough).
10. His sass is like the best thing in the entire world. I don’t know if sass is even the right word to describe it but I don’t care because The Sass of Cas just sounds way too good. His inner commentary is what makes the book, which is why I’m kind of worried about the movie, since we’re not going to be inside Cas’ awesome head and that’s what made me love it so much. I want to see a sass-off between Cas, Jace and Valkyrie. Someone please write a fanfic and make it happen (the only reason I don’t include Skulduggery Pleasant is because come on, we know he’s like the king of sass in YA/Children’s Fiction).
11. It’s the most damn heartwarming thing that Cas finally finds friends. We see that even though he loves this lifestyle, it can be damn lonely, and you can kind of tell that Thomas and Carmel might be the first real friends he’s ever had, the first genuine friends that he can trust, because he’s let himself become cut off from the world, and he’s finally finding a place where he fits in.
- “Every time I question him about the feasibility, he smiles at me like he’s Yoda and I’m just a dumbass without the Force.”
- “I don’t care what your name is,” she hisses. “And I don’t care who you are. If you don’t get him some help, I will burn your f*cking place down.”
- “All this faux flattery. It’s not enough to make me forget he’s a dick. Admittedly, though, he’s sort of a charismatic dick.”
- “He almost killed my friends. F*ck that guy.”
- “Chef?” Carmel exclaims. “I could give a sh*t about a chef. I’m going to find the most expensive thing in that kitchen, eat one bite, and throw the rest on the floor. Then I’m going to break some plates.”
- “Jestine and I lock eyes. She’s going to look away first. Even if my eyeballs have to completely dry out.”
- “You’d better eat that,” she says.
“I’m taking it easy on my stomach,” I protest. “Come on. It just had a knife in it.”
- “I want to cross my arms and say things like, “Don’t come back if you’re not going to stay!” and “If you think that nothing’s changed, you’re wrong.” But she probably heard all this stuff from Thomas already. I wasn’t the boyfriend. I don’t know why I feel like I should get the chance to yell at her too.
Jesus. I have become the thing they call the third wheel.”
- “Without a word, we start to walk together down the long hall. I’m so pent up and irritated with this place; I want to kick down the closed doors and break up a prayer circle, maybe juggle the athame with a couple of candles just to see the horrified looks on their faces and hear their screams of “Sacrilege!”
Damnit I need to stop adding quotes before this gets out of hand. It’s just a really damn quotable book. I could give you a hundred more, (better yet just make you read the entire thing if you’ve stayed this long and still haven’t read it), but let’s just add one more so my heart can shatter:
- “What?” she asks, but I don’t answer. Instead I kiss her, one time, and try to tell her in that single gesture everything that she’ll forget as soon as she turns away. I tell her I love her. I tell her I’ll miss her. And then I let her go.”
And with that, I can feel something inside of me crying.
It was pretty obvious from the beginning, wasn’t it? 5 shuriken stars. Please read this. Not only one of my favourite book covers to exist, but one of my favourite YA books to exist. It blows away all other Paranormal Romances. It is a completely brilliant series and I love it so much but at the same time please, Kendare Blake, please. Please write something else about Cas. I beg of you. Maybe a third book in the series would not make sense, but a short story or a spin-off or something, anything, would be amazing.
I beg of you.
Or an alternate ending so Anna comes back to life and her and Cas get married and have kids and everything’s happy again because there are tears in my soul. There are entire rivers of them running through my heart. Freaking hell, I did not realise this ending would traumatise me so much but it did, guys, it really did.