4 out of 5 stars.
A Canadian ghost story! I rarely go in for purely horror ghost stories, but I somehow found this one on Goodreads and decided to expand my horizons and give it a go, with the understanding that if it got too scary I could immediately stop and go read something less creepy. It turned out to be not that gory. I mean, people get dismembered, but the descriptions were not worse than a lot of the zombie material I have worked my way through. I was pleased with myself at getting through the whole book. Hooray for ghost stories! I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would.
Cas is a ghost hunter, because his dad had been one. His dad is no longer around (having been killed while on the job), but Cas wants to continue his legacy, so normal teenager-hood gets pushed aside in favour of globetrotting, ghost-killing. Cas gets a tip about a spirit in Ontario, Canada who has ripped apart quite a few people already, and puts her next on his to-do list. Unfortunately, the ghost (Anna), is insanely strong. More disturbingly, she shows signs of lucidity that Cas has never encountered before. She knows she is dead and even shows signs of remorse over having killed. Cas now has to confront some of the ethics of his profession, as well as figure out if it is even possible to stop Anna. He also starts making friends, though, so he will have more of a team than he usually does (there is a male witch. Hooray for gender inclusivity!). The key to Anna might be in her past, so Cas has to get to know her (without getting bloodily ripped apart) and figure out how to stop her from murdering anyone who gets in her way.
This is part ghost story, part love story. Some of the descriptions are a little gross, but if you read dystopian or other horror, you will be fine. The descriptions of magic working, and especially voodoo, are a little insensitive to anyone who might practice Wicca or the actual religion Voodoo, so keep that in mind if you are recommending this book. It relies heavily on cultural perceptions of magic and voodoo, which tend not to be well-researched. Extremely devout Christians might also not enjoy this book (think the type that will not let their kids read Harry Potter).
Anna’s back story is enjoyably creepy, with a twist added to keep it interesting. Watching Anna’s two halves war against each other as she tries to keep her murderous rage under control kept her character empathetic and interesting. Watching Cas put down roots was also sweet and well done. I also really loved the fact that the main protagonist does not end up with the gorgeous girl. That is a nice break from tradition.
The ending went a little too quickly, but there is at least one more novel, so we are not left stranded. For my first pure ghost story, this was a great read. It was a little creepy, a little haunting, and very well written. The characters had a lot of personality, and were all convincing in their motives. I would recommend this one to long-time fans of ghost stories as well as newcomers to the genre. I am easily scared, but was able to sleep well after this one. Very enjoyable!
The second book has a bit of a different feel. While the first one reads a little like a mystery (trying to figure out who killed and cursed Anna), while this second one is pretty much straight up action. The hero (Cas of course) needs to figure out how to get her back from hell, but he is led very quickly to the conclusion, and most of the book is him struggling through the various obstacles, with his friends’ help, to reach his goal.
This book moved very quickly, but not always in a good way. I was hoping to linger a little more over it, since it is the conclusion, but it just raced by. It did not have the suspense of the first, and not as much story, but it was really good to have a satisfying ending to the story. The first left on too much of a cliffhanger for me to just walk away.