Monday, November 21, 2011

REVIEW: "Unholy Ghosts" by Stacia Kane

TITLE: Unholy Ghosts
AUTHOR: Stacia Kane
SERIES: Downside Ghosts #1
GENRE: Urban Fantasy-Horror
READ DATE: November 2011
SOURCE: Library
SUMMARY: The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen, and the living are under attack. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased.
Enter Chess Putnam, a fully tattooed witch and freewheeling ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for banishing the wicked dead. But Chess is keeping a dark secret: She owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump, who wants immediate payback in the form of a dangerous job that involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust for a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump’s ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it. Hell, yeah.


Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts series has the makings of being an unique approach to the urban fantasy genre if Unholy Ghosts is any indication.  In this dystopian setting, the world has been set upon by spirits and the only thing keeping them from taking over is the Church of Real Truth and their specially trained ghost hunters.  While the hunters are successful, there are still pockets of spiritual escapes that keep the citizens of this universe in constant darkness.  Most of the book takes place in the dirty, depressing slums of the city and this setting showcases the overall mood of the series which is dark, gritty, and often times horrific.

The main character of the series is Chess who is one of the ghost hunters employed by the Church to eliminate spiritual activity.  At first glance, Chess seems to be a typical UF heroine.  She is good at her job as well as tough as nails to those around her.  She is sympathetic to the weak in her world and is willing to do anything to protect those she cares about.  But, what sets Chess apart from the others are her character flaws.  Chess is a full-fledged drug addict who relies on pills and other substances to get through the tough times in her life.  Kane does not pull any punches with this aspect of her heroine's lifestyle.  There are numerous scenes that showcase Chess's desperation.  The realistic approach to this aspect makes the reader relate to Chess and sympathize with her on a deeper level. 

And then there's Terrible.  I am assuming he is being set up as Chess's love interest despite a few unfortunate incidents that put in wrench in their potential relationship.  Terrible is the primary enforcer for Chess's drug dealer, Bump, and has a reputation for being the scariest character in the series.  While we rarely see these dark aspects of Terrible's personality, there is definite foreshadowing throughout this first book that made me slightly frightened by his potential for violence and cruelty.  But, despite this potential, Terrible comes across as a sympathetic character.  He obviously has feelings for Chess, but seems unwilling to express them to her due to his reputation and his fearsome appearance.

There are quite a few other intriguing characters in this series.  Bump, Chess's drug dealer and Terrible's boss, is ruthless, demanding, and charming in the way that a successful dealer could be.  Lex, a rival dealer and Chess's lover, is introduced as a sensual and dangerous rival for Terrible in his quest for Chess's affections.  Then there are the various hunters and ghosts Chess runs into in the span of her workday.  All of these people are fascinating and provided valuable information about this world for the readers.

In terms of the plot, I found myself both intrigued and confused at the same time.  There is alot of worldbuilding done in this book and I sometimes got lost in all the spiritual discussions and the background about the Church.  This effected my overall enjoyment of the book, but I believe I understand enough to not run into this issue in the next book.  I am definitely eager to try more of this series especially if Terrible is going to make a play for Chess soon!  Recommended!


“Bump stood in the middle of the room, wrapped in a heavy fur coat, with a black silk top hatcovering his fuzzy head and unnecessary sunglasses hiding his pale face. He looked like the Abominable Snowpimp.”

1. Unholy Ghosts
2. Unholy Magic
3. City of Ghosts
3.5. "Rick the Brave" from Home Improvement: Dead Edition
4. Sacrifical Magic (Coming 2012)

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