This is the third book in Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts series. While I tried to stay away from spoilers, there will be a few minor ones. If you want to read my review of the first book, go here. When I first got the series, City of Ghosts was the first book I picked up and tried to read. I immediately realized I had to go back to the beginning. This is not a series to read out of sequence. The steps taken in each book are vital to the overall understanding of the characters and over arching plot line. It is however, a series worth reading. I read it in two weeks, I told a friend about it and she did the same.
Chess Putnman, anti-hero extraordinaire, is in a bind. Literally. Chess is a secret addict, well, it’s a secret from her bosses The Church of Real Truth where she exorcises ghosts and debunks fake hauntings. They’ve bound her to the Black Squad with black magics and painful tattoos that keep her from speaking of their secret special mission to figure out why bodies are showing up mangled on the streets of Triumph City. But her drug dealer discovers she is working his streets when some of the mangled bodies wind up in his dominion and sends Terrible, his right hand man to help Chess figure out who is creating the black magic that is infiltrating the streets. But Terrible and Chess have had a falling out and as much as she wants him on her side, and at her side, (I want to make a crude joke about being inside her, but I wont, because I’m classy like that) Chess doesn’t know how to handle a real friendship or a real relationship because all she has no frame of reference from her past. Her prior relationships have all have failed because Chess doesn’t know how to trust people and her actions are often dictated by her addiction. Her relationship with Terrible seems doomed to failure also because of her inability to relate her emotions to another person.
A street vendor with dubious magicks has something to do with the bodies but Chess has a hard time figuring out what part he is playing. And it is a horrifying one. The pressure piles on and Chess continues to pop her pills even as she understands in a small way that they are destroying her life, her magic, and her relationships. Added to the horrible deaths is Chess uncertainty about the binding spell which will kill her if she reveals what she knows. It is tied up with First Elders, the underground City of Eternity, and her new “partner” Lauren.
While the dark magic of this book is really interesting with potions, physchopomps, and wraiths, it is Kane’s exploration of Chess’ growth as a human being that makes this series stand out from the rest of Urban Fantasy. Here the series leaves behind, mostly, it’s love triangle and after her betrayal Chess realizes what Terrible really means to her and she sets out to fix it, if she can, in spite of bumbling and pill popping. I love the slow agonizing waltz Kane makes the characters move to, but it is for their own good and the readers. She shows the very very slow rebuild of bumbled steps, turns, twists and falling down. Forward and back, to the side, and forward again. Chess and Terrible’s conversations set them apart from other UF couples, and I’m not just talking about Terrible’s Downside accent. The turning point for them is displayed in lovely artistic prose in the third book in the series, and it is all perfectly stepped and timed.
I cannot say enough good things about this series to convince you to read it. Just get your hands on them. It is my favorite series I discovered last year. I suggest taking out the first three books because if you fall in love with it as I did, waiting even two days to get your hands on the second or third book is torture.