Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Review: Girl of Nightmares

Title: Girl of Nightmares
Author: Kendare Blake
Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Paranormal
My Rating: ★★★★ (4/5 stars)

“I’d go through hell for you” is perchance one of the most hackneyed declarations of true love a person could ever concoct. But no matter how many layers of oozing cheese were dabbed on it, you got to admit that the volumes it speaks are not subdued one bit. Nothing beats the classic “I’ll do anything for you.” What more if someone means this literally?

That’s practically the premise of Kendare Blake’s Girl of Nightmares. The novel picks up right where Anna Dressed in Blood left off, centering on teenage “ghost hunter” Cas Lowood. Anna Korlov, the homicidal ghost whom Cas fell in love with, opened a gate to Hell so she could drag the baleful Obeahman into it to save Cas and his friends. Months after the incident, Cas is continually haunted by images of a tortured Anna both when he’s asleep and when he’s awake. He will not be at peace as long as Anna isn’t, and he’ll do anything to pull her back. But Anna is already dead, and the world Cas lives in belongs to the living. Is he doing the right thing? Is it worth letting the new world he built around himself crumble, letting his loved ones down all for the sake of a ghost who had her share of murders?

Amidst all the chaos going on in his life, there are a few things Cas is very sure of: that he loves Anna more than anything, and he’s going to save her no matter what.

With Girl of Nightmares, Blake spun a tale of “rescue the not-quite-damsel-in-distress” as a sequel to what was billed as her “average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people” story. Cas might have taken the spotlight solo this time, but the story never makes bones about the fact that the plot still banks on romance, though not as heavily as did its predecessor. Even if Anna is absent for the most part of the story, Blake managed to make it as though she’s there all the time, her presence heavy and ominous.

Cas as a character hasn’t changed much. He still has that inner sarcasm factory inside him functioning every waking hour, his cynicism and superiority complex still his biggest features, and he still irks himself for being the miserable, lovelorn guy that he’s become. Despite all these, he’s surprisingly easy to like as a narrator. I think it’s because Blake made it so that his thought processes are bluntly honest and often hilarious. It’s not often that the readers are let into the mind of a character with zero walls to guard what other writers would rather keep behind closed doors.

I loved how in the few chunks of Anna moments near the end, she proved that she would not fit into the mold of princesses who needed someone else to save them. One character comments something to the effect of “You gotta act, we don’t need damsels-in-distress here.” Anna merely smirks and shows what she is really made of, fighting in the way she only knows how…after being burned, stabbed, broken, and exposed to several other kinds of torment.

The plot is thankfully not dual in nature like that of Anna Dressed in Blood. Be that as it may, I liked the subplots that branched out, including the realistic repercussions of Carmel being catapulted from the high school Queen Bee to a ghost-buster team tagalong, how Cas dealt with everybody thinking he’s a special case of emo kid gone mental, and how the secrets of the Order of the Biodag Dubh are revealed. I find the new characters enticing as well; Jestine is admittedly annoying in her first appearances, but I gradually grew fond of her. Oh, and I think I love Aunt Rikka and her gingersnaps (those who’ve read it would understand).

I guess what really took the cake are the author’s palpable descriptions. This is kind of hard to do when you’re speaking through the mouth of a boy who has no time for pretty words, but Blake pulled it off perfectly. She is able to deftly create what she wanted the readers to see and feel. She brings to life gory and bloody scenes, textures you’d shudder to feel, and scent you’d crinkle your nose at. Watch out for the scenes in the museum and the Suicide Forest. If you have an exceptionally overactive imagination, I don’t recommend reading the latter at night. There is a big possibility of robbed sleep.

The story was carefully paced; it’s not slow to a point that you’ll be get wrapped with ennui, but it’s also not fast that there’s no room for the other story elements to develop.
I became a tad emotional when I reached the part I consider the climax. And it’s not when they’re combating the Obeahman in Hell; it’s when Cas has to make the ultimate decision regarding Anna. He’ll consider it a wild goose chase if he’s selfish, but what I can say—love does unspeakable things to people. I wept a little at the end.

Girl of Nightmares is a wildly unforgettable romp about love that transcends death, of unselfish devotion in the most dire of consequences. Four stars for an amazing read.

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