As I Descended

517Jbn75RULThis isn’t a full review, but I wanted to pop in and say that readers who enjoyed Anna’s post in the spring about seeing Sleep No More, the immersive theater take on Macbeth, might like As I Descended by Robin Talley. It’s a YA version of the story, set in a Virginia boarding school, with two teenage girls positioned as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. I really enjoyed seeing how the grand story of kings and battles scaled down to the stakes of high school–theoretically smaller, but still life and death to the characters. And if every version of this story has to decide which of the more fantastical elements are happening in the characters’ heads versus which are real, this one leans heavily towards the spirits and ghosts side of things. Which makes it a great, creepy read for this time of year, as we edge into the dark of fall and winter.

The Devil You Know

By Mike Carey

Book CoverThis book is chock full of pretty much every popular supernatural creature (okay, no vampires have shown up, but I wouldn’t bet against them appearing later in the series), but they are all treated in very unusual ways. The were-beasts are sort of dim, while the zombies are snarky, and the succubae are downright vicious. The story starts off kind of slow, and reminded me quite a bit of an adult version of Anna Dressed in Blood, which I only moderately liked. (Also, just about every reviewer on GoodReads compares it favorably to the Dresden Files, which I concur with.) Once it really gets going, introducing a whole new supernatural being pretty much ever other chapter, I had trouble putting it down again.

The world-building premise is both basic and clever: what if suddenly and inexplicably the dead began to return, like a reverse apocalypse? Our reluctant hero has a natural talent for sending them back again, and works as an exorcist-for-hire when money gets tight. If all this hasn’t already sold you on this summer escapism, let me just tell you that I reserved the second book of the series at my library as soon as I finished the first one.

—Anna

Girl of Nightmares

By Kendare Blake

Book Cover: Girl of NightmaresGirl of Nightmares is the sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood, which I enjoyed as my palette cleanser after a brutal few months with Atlas Shrugged. Anna Dressed in Blood was an awesome way to recover from Ayn Rand, but wasn’t so engaging that I was intending to read the sequel. However, I was looking for casual reading over the holidays, so I picked it up on a whim at the library, figuring it would be a fun distraction.

And it was! It was actually even better than the first book! My one complaint about Anna Dressed in Blood was awfully vague, just that the pace of the plotting seemed odd to me in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Well, I’ve figured out what the plotting issue was because Girl of Nightmares doesn’t have it at all. So, here’s the thing, I like a very linear storyline: protagonist has a problem, works towards a solutions, and finally succeeds. It is a little simple, perhaps, but that’s how I like it. Anna Dressed in Blood had a lot of red herrings as the protagonist and supporting characters tried to figure out what challenge they were facing and then how to solve it, but this book is more straight-forward.

Girl of Nightmares starts just a couple of months after the end of Anna Dressed in Blood, and picks up the same story, so is definitely not a standalone. I can’t really describe the plot at all without spoiling Anna Dressed in Blood, so I’m not going to do that, beyond saying that the other thing I really like is that this book is sort of the flipside of the first book. The first book follows the protagonist Cas as he hunts murderous ghosts and sends them to the afterlife; in Girl of Nightmares, Cas is trying to bring a ghost back from the afterlife. I just love that kind of mirror-image reversal treatment in sequels!

Cas also travels to London to meet with a group that sounds very similar to the Watcher Council, and any similarity to Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a-okay with me!

—Anna