March 20, 2014

REVIEW: Unholy Ghosts (Downside Ghosts #1)

Unholy Ghosts (Downside Ghosts #1), by Stacia Kane
Published May 25, 2010
Del Rey
audiobook, purchased
adult urban fantasty
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating:  4 STARS

(From Goodreads)

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.

Unholy Ghosts is most definitely a book outside of my comfort zone. Like, WAY outside. Urban fantasy, although definitely growing on my list of must-read genres, has always been hit or miss for me. In addition, the world includes a "church" that rules everyone's lives. And, our main character? She's a drug addict. 

Chess Putnam had an awful life before The Church of Real Truth rescued and educated her. She now works for the church as a debunker - a witch who has a penchant for banishing murderous ghosts. The damage her early life inflicted on her is dampened only by drugs, so Chess also has to answer to drug lord Bump and his enforcer Terrible. Soon, her loyalties are tested as she does a job for the Church as well as a job for Bump, and it seems that they might be related. 

No, Unholy Ghosts is definitely not something I would normally make time to read. My book bestie Jen suggested we start to listen to it on a drive to a book signing, though, and I had heard some stories about how awesome Terrible was, so I was a tiny bit curious. Although it took me a few chapters to get into it - world building always seems to take so much longer with urban fantasy - once I did, I was shocked to find myself hooked. 

Chess is the most damaged heroine I've ever encountered. She had such an awful childhood, the likes of which only scratched the surface in Unholy Ghosts. I'm honestly surprised she's as functional as she is. But, honestly, she's more than functional. Chess is incredibly smart and intuitive. Despite her need for her pills and the fact that she owes a drug lord a crap ton of money she doesn't have, she is really good at her job. She doesn't always make smart decisions - hell, she makes really, really bad choices quite often in fact. But, I think she's inherently a good person who is trying to deal with a lot of baggage and self-loathing.

Terrible is an awesome hero because he's completely unexpected. He's not gorgeous. Or rich. Or well-spoken. He's a drug lord's muscle. He has poor fashion sense (but, a really cool car). And I fell completely in love with him. Terrible is a little bit damaged as well, and it's obvious he cares a lot for Chess. He's kind of adorable, really. Chess is oblivious to his attraction for most of the book even if the reader isn't. This was the cause of a ton of frustration on my part. 

The world in which these characters live is incredible. Ghosts stormed the world in 1997 and killed half the population before people with magic beat them back and imprisoned them in The City. The people with magic became The Church of Real Truth, and the set about effectively eliminating all of the world's organized religions and set themselves up as the law. Now, The Church runs everything everywhere. They employ the most powerful people to round up any straggling ghosts and return them to The City. Chess is one of those people, and she lives in Downside, which is like the slums of Triumph City. Drugs, prostitution, and crime of the worst kinds happens daily. Stacia Kane did an amazing job setting up this world and introducing it to the reader a bit at a time so as not to be too confusing. 

The mysteries that Chess was asked to solve were complex and interesting. I couldn't wait to find out who the mastermind was and how Chess would thwart him or her. The crimes and the methods of detection were really graphic and gruesome at times, but in the context of the story, they fit in perfectly. Chess' and Terrible's relationship is sweet and fun to read about. Well, listen to, in my case. I'm very glad I listened to the audio version of this book. The Downside lingo would be rather hard to understand if I had to read it, and I thought the narrator did a fantastic job with it. I was so taken with this series, I immediately moved on to the second book. I can't wait to see what's in store for Chess and Terrible next.    

1 comment:

Tabitha (Pabkins) said...

I sometimes think the tragic past makes some people stronger. But i only like it in a book if its done well. Sometimes I feel like its used as an excuse to give a character odd hangups.