Stacia Kane is one of our favorite authors and her Downside Ghosts series is a Badass Book Review favorite. We were so very excited to get an early review copy of this book.
Once again, Michelle and I had to discuss this book. So here are our combined thoughts on this book:
(Warning – there may be spoilers for previous books here – we tried to be as spoiler-free as possible).
Added bonus for our readers – I have a giveaway copy of Sacrificial Magic for one lucky reader in the US or Canada.
Magic-wielding Churchwitch and secret addict Chess Putnam knows better than anyone just how high a price people are willing to pay for a chemical rush. But when someone with money to burn and a penchant for black magic starts tampering with Downside’s drug supply, Chess realizes that the unlucky customers are paying with their souls—and taking the innocent with them, as the magic-infused speed compels them to kill in the most gruesome ways possible.
As if the streets weren’t scary enough, the looming war between the two men in her life explodes, taking even more casualties and putting Chess squarely in the middle. Downside could become a literal ghost town if Chess doesn’t find a way to stop both the war and the dark wave of death-magic, and the only way to do that is to use both her addiction and her power to enter the spell and chase the magic all the way back to its malevolent source. Too bad that doing so will probably kill Chess—if the war doesn’t first destroy the man who’s become her reason for living.
Michelle- Every time Chess thinks Terrible is going to be angry, she automatically thinks he will leave her. Kane goes into these super long paragraphs that consist of Chess’s inner dialogue regarding her “I-fucked-up-everything thoughts”. I get that she feels vulnerable. I get that she is screwed up due to her past. I get that she is numb from the drugs, but how long will she be like this? It now feels like a gimmick. When do we say enough is enough? I think people who haven’t experienced drugs/abuse might feel sorry for Chess. I get that. However, there is a time for Chess to grow up and realize she needs to get her big girl panties on. (These are just my thoughts as I’m reading).
AH’s Thoughts – I didn’t see it the same way. For me, it wasn’t really a gimmick. Chess was horribly damaged by her life in foster care. She never really saw herself as worthy of the love of someone. Then Terrible is there in her life and he wants her and wants to be with her and she just can’t understand why. That’s why she intentionally fucks up the relationship.
Michelle Thoughts about AH’s Thoughts (lol)- How long is she allowed to use her upbringing as an excuse for her destructive behavior though? I know many people never recover from abusive pasts. I know some are always fucked up from what happened to them. However, as a reader, I’m not usually firmly implanted in these fucked up character’s heads for 5 books. I’m not sure what I expect from Chess at this point but I guess maybe more accountability. I absolutely hated when she lost count of her cepts and went unconscious in Chasing Magic. I thought, okay, enough is enough. She either needs to die from her behavior or get clean. I can’t look at her as a sympathetic character anymore. I keep waiting for Kane to make her actions so regrettable that the only solution is her death or on the alternative, her actions finally cause her to see the light. However, she always seems to “just” get by, to “just” maintain enough to function on a barely human level.
AH - I get what you are saying. In every review I’ve done of the past 4 books, I’ve always said that I either want to smack Chess or hug her and cart her away to rehab. I understand that you are frustrated with this character. I am too, sometimes. I do, however, see little teeny weensy baby steps where she is starting to see what her addiction is doing to her. She feels dirty when she gets pills from Lex because in the past she traded sex for pills. She has never had any role models for “normal” – and you can’t really call Terrible a “normal” boyfriend. Terrible is caring and loving around Chess, but not “normal.”
Michelle has a question: Chess uses some of her drugs to numb herself. While the drugs in Chasing Magic are “make believe”, there are indications by some of Kane’s words that the Cepts (and other pills she pops) have numbing qualities, they make Chess forget, calm herself, so she can handle what is going on around her when she takes the drugs. So, if we compare them to real life drugs, we are looking at opiates, and in comparison- Heroin. One of the strongest side effects for Heroin (or any opiate really) is diminished sexual drive. However, Chess seems to be very willing and ready for sex with Terrible. Basically, Terrible can enter her without any lubricant, at anytime. She is always wet, and ready. While that is very blunt of me, in my head, I’m always doing logic checks with books. Does the scene seem possible? I know when we are dealing with fantasies, the author gets a ton of leeway but I keep wondering if Kane is not being held accountable for failed logic because she can use the “it’s a fantasy novel” as an excuse?
AH - Excellent point, Michelle. We have to assume that these drugs are opiates, but doesn’t she take other drugs to wake her up? – My eyes always glass over at those parts. Who knows, maybe one of those pills has Viagra-like abilities for women? What I do like is that Terrible doesn’t want her numbed out when he’s with her. I loved him for telling her that. It’s almost as if he is trying to manage her addiction for her and perhaps wean her off the pills. What struck me is how remarkably lucid she could be on so many drugs at once.
“That was the best thing about the drugs really; she could still think, still be coherent, still use her brain. She just didn’t have to if she didn’t want to, and it was so much easier to keep that brain from wandering into all those places she didn’t want to go.”
Michelle- Terrible is trying without pushing her. He is smart enough to know not to push her. I admire Terrible. I think readers are quickly realizing how smart Terrible really is.
AH’s question for Michelle -What do you think will happen with Terrible and his “sensitivity” to dark magic?
Michelle- I don’t know. I fear that she’ll kill off Terrible but in reality, Kane can’t kill of Terrible or she’ll kill her entire series. I don’t know about this one. I have to think. I guess I didn’t really think about it. In other words, good question. Your questions are making me think!
AH – Stacia, if you are reading this – Please don’t kill off Terrible! We’d be left with Lex and Chess, not something I’d want to see.
AH’s question for Michelle – What did you think of Elder Griffins’ wedding ritual?
Michelle- OK, the entire Elder Griffin thing is making me nervous. I don’t get him or his relationship with Chess. I don’t trust him at all. Not.At.All. I keep expecting a major betrayal by him. Not sure why but I just don’t understand his significance in the story. If Kane is going for the “father figure” for Chess, I’m not getting it either.
AH – I don’t see him turning her in. If anything, he is the kind of character that sees the good in people and I think he’s good for Chess. I was fascinated by the wedding ritual and I liked that he was marrying his true love Keith.
I also loved how the wedding ritual opened up a possibility for Chess and Terrible:
“What? She flipped her head back to their conversation in time to hear Keith say, “And are we going to see you here having a marriage ceremony?
Oh for fuck’s—
Terrible shrugged. “Aye, if Chessie’s wanting.”
Her mouth fell open. No he hadn’t – Okay she was going to pretend she hadn’t heard that.
But her cheeks felt hotter than they should.
AH - What do you think of this quote?
“Actions have consequences,” he said. “I made a decision, and now I must live with it.” (Elder Griffins).
Michelle- I don’t know about this. It really wasn’t “action” but inaction. I’m nervous about the Church, about Elder Griffin, about Chess’s unflinching trust in the Church in general.
AH – I noted that Chapter 26 was, for me, the best chapter in the book. I saw the book as an emotional journey for Chess where she realizes just how much she loves Terrible and how important he is for her, and that he is ready to commit to her. It seemed to me that Chess was finally getting It.
Michelle- Absolutely. I think Chess not only loves Terrible but she’s finally come to the conclusion that she is worthy of love. When you grow up unworthy, unloved, the first sign of recovery is when you realize you ARE worthy of love. Terrible has given Chess that gift. Chess’s realization of that, is Chess’s gift to herself.
“Shit. You so fuckin pretty, Chessie. True thing. So…ain’t even can breathe sometimes.”
Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts series is one of the more original urban fantasy series out there. We highly recommend reading this dark, gritty series.
Rating: for both Michelle and AH – A-
Series Reading Order:
Prequel – Finding Magic
Badass Book Reviews Interviews Stacia Kane here.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
Giveaway – I have a copy of Sacrificial Magic available for 1 lucky reader in Canada or the US. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter.
© 2012 – 2013, Badass Book Reviews. All rights reserved Please do not copy reviews or content from this site