Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This, fellow readers, is exactly what a sequel should be!
Blake made a rare move to completely change the game for her sequel. Whereas the first book hit the ground running and went into ghost hunter Cas's confrontation with the ghost of Anna Karlov, this book took the step back to actually explain how the world works. What are ghosts and why are they here? Where do they go once they cross? And why is Cas's athame alone so powerful?
Anna, as much as I love her, is no longer a main character. She is present in the sense that Cas is constantly worrying about her fate after (view spoiler)[ plunging herself into her own personal hell at the end of Anna Dressed in Blood. (hide spoiler)] His love and regret for her passing drives Cas to push the boundaries of what he knows about the supernatural and find a way to take someone back from the afterlife and not just send them there. We go through a lot of admittedly frustrating circles as Cas struggles to find the answers among his ghost hunting network, but I appreciate that the answer doesn't come simple. We really get to unravel how Blake's world works as Cas is figuring out himself.
On top of world building, the character relationships also develop and grow more complex. Carmel and Thomas, my favorite characters from the first book, are dating-not-really-dating, and Cas's mom continues to balance her respect for Cas's purpose with her fear of losing him.
There are also some great new characters. We get to actually meet Gideon, Cas's grandfather of sorts, and we're also introduced to another ghost hunter named Jestine, who is almost as fiery as Anna herself.
The biggest drawback, and most of the reason this did not get a full five stars, is that the beginning was incredibly slow. It took Cas far too long to accept that Anna was really trapped in hell and actually act on it. He was also completely disrespectful to others for no good reason. Yes, he's an asshole, which is part of his charm as a character, but he was lashing out at his friends and even his mother in the aftermath of Anna's loss.
What was slow in the beginning was made up for in the end. Plenty of action and an incredible resolution. (view spoiler)[ Jestine's way to dodge the Order's political agenda was genius--that move may have made her my favorite character. And Cas's decision to leave Anna to live in her personal heaven, with her own illusion of him to keep her happy, was just heartbreaking (hide spoiler)].
Does anyone know if Blake plans on a third book? Because even though this book completely wrapped itself up, I have complete faith that she'd make a third book just as good as the others!
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