My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Initial reaction: I didn’t love this as much as “Anna Dressed in Blood”, but “Girl of Nightmares” managed to be entertaining in its own right, and the ending left me content for what it offered. I do think the major issue I had with this novel was that the pacing was very slow in certain parts of the narrative, it didn’t quite have as much momentum as the first book. Nonetheless, it was great to see Anna, Cas, and the rest of the familiar cast of characters from the previous book. I’m certainly looking forward to reading more of Kendare Blake’s work – she has a great eye for humor, characterization, and her imagination pops off the page.
There’s no question that in terms of YA paranormal stories affiliated with ghosts, “Anna Dressed in Blood” was one of the best I’ve read in recent years, so I was very excited to be able to read “Girl of Nightmares” and devour it to see what happens to Cas, Anna, Carmel, and Jackson, among the collective cast. Going from where the last book left off, Cas is left torn by what Anna did for him and his friends, very much saving their lives. Yet, in this story, Cas finds he can’t quite let go of Anna, and certain events lend Cas to realize that Anna might still need his help after all.
I definitely liked the story, worldbuilding, characterizations, and horror elements in “Girl of Nightmares.” The expansion of the adventure from the first book is well noted, and I certainly still appreciated Cas’s narrating voice. There were a number of times I laughed at his commentary (the dark humor is especially on point), and it was very easy, like in the last book, to get inside his head and figure his reactions to certain events/revelations. However, and this is surprising to me, I think there were many moments where the second novel in the Anna series dragged its feet. It would spend too much time in a certain locale or in a certain segment of the story, and not necessarily move along to the next point with as much ease as it could’ve had. It felt a bit cumbersome in spurts.
That’s difficult for me to say because I definitely liked the extra elements this story had with respect to its mythos and references, but I don’t know if so much time should’ve been spent on Cas lamenting Anna, and that such little time was spent actually *with* Anna, who took more of a notable backseat in this novel. I guess I wouldn’t have had a problem with Anna not being as prominent a figure as she was in the last book, but there’s so much attention that Cas pays to her, and that leads to him being cumbersome in his work as a ghost hunter. Plausible certainly, but somewhat frustrating for him as well as all involved. Also frustrating was that unlike the first novel, the romance is more played up than the mystery/horror elements of the last. While that considered by itself wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, considering how “Anna Dressed in Blood” brought the latter elements to the forefront, it made for a different read than I expected. I actually think “Anna Dressed in Blood” was better in that it featured higher stakes conflicts with less angst. This one was more of Cas pining for Anna, with certain revelations that revealed the stakes more as it went along, but not soon enough to pull as much weight in the investment as the former novel. Still, I found “Girl of Nightmares” well worth the read, and definitely liked the ending, even when it took a little while through the fight scenes to ultimately have Cas and Anna have a sweet reunion and the resolution that came with that.
I would recommend it because I think Kendare Blake has an imagination that leaps off the page and the Anna series still piques my interest for its hero and heroine, being a read that stands apart from many other YA paranormal entries in the past few years. I just didn’t think it was as strongly asserted as the former novel in the series.