Kendare Blake’s Anna duology is one of the rare times in paranormal where I think the romance is just what it should be. Most authors would come up with some magical ending, pull the HEA out of the hellmouth. I like that things aren’t that simple in Girl of Nightmares. The ending’s satisfying but it’s not perfect or magical. It’s realistic, so far as a story about going to find a ghost in hell can be. Romance is Cas’ driving force in Girl of Nightmares, but it’s not the driving force of the series.
Speaking of romance, I really appreciate Carmel’s character in a whole lot of ways. I didn’t really talk about her in book one because I wanted to finish out her character arc. She’s this perfect, popular girl on the surface. She could so easily have been a stereotypical queen bee. Instead, shes’ a loyal friend and a fiend with a bat. For the terrible circumstances she winds up in with Cas and Thomas, she hardly complains and she helps save the day a lot, despite being basically the only non-magical person to matter in the series. In no way is she ever the damsel in distress. I also LOVE that she was not in the book to be a love interest for Cas and that she goes for the less obvious guy.
If what you loved best about Anna Dressed in Blood was the scary ghost stuff, then Girl of Nightmares will probably be a bit of a let down. There are a few scary ghosts scenes, but it’s not nearly so gory or consistent. The plot’s a bit more meandering, with Thomas heading on a journey to figure out how to rescue Anna from hell. The plot works in the long run, I think, but in the middle it does feel as though it hits doldrums.
The characterization could still be better in the series, however. I still don’t really have any sense of who Cas is at all. He’s not quite flat, but he’s definitely not real. Blake excels at setting and horror, but the characters are not there yet. Of course, these are her first two published books, so I’m sure she’ll grow better at this as time goes by. Despite being a character-focused reader, there was enough to love in both of these books to keep me interested without the emotional connection.
Ultimately, what I love about this series ender is that Kendare Blake dared to go with a less traditional ending. The Anna series is good for horror fans, quick and fun.