Unholy Ghosts ~ Stacia Kane

  • Title: Unholy Ghosts
  • Author: Stacia Kane
  • Series: Downside Ghosts #1
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Format: Audio book
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  THE DEPARTED HAVE ARRIVED.

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.

Review:Unholy Ghosts is the first book in the Downside Ghosts series by Stacia Kane. The series takes place in a slightly dystopian world following a nearly apocalyptic ghost invasion. The Church, not to be confused with the real-life religious namesakes, is a magical order that controls the ghosts . . . and everything else. Cesaria “Chess” Putnam, the heroine of the series, is a debunker, which means she investigates hauntings on behalf of The Church to either expose them as fraudulent or to exorcise the unruly spirit causing them.

Chess is a beautifully flawed character. She is smart, tough, determined, and has integrity despite the fact that she is anti-social, unable to bond with others, incapable of following rules, and oh yeah, she is addicted to drugs. I would call her functionally dysfunctional. The author hints at the past trauma and abuse that molded the flawed persona that is Chess. While I enjoyed the book, at first I was not sure if I liked Chess. She makes mistakes, lot of them. She is not really a player, but to her men are a quick fix as much as her pills, and then she walks away. The drug addiction was an interesting choice by Ms. Kane. It is a risky choice as addicts are not generally the most likeable of people, yet she keeps Chess just functional enough to make it work. There is definitely plenty of room for character development throughout the series.

In this book, Chess is coerced into a side job of debunking for her dealer which turns out to be related to her official case that she is working for The Church. There is clearly something bigger going on, and Chess finds herself dangerously caught in the middle. Kane does a good job of building intrigue, leaving many avenues open to potential suspects. The danger and suspense give the book enough edge to make it quite the page turner. There are some romantic sparks, but it was not at all a romance novel.

Along the way, the author introduces a rich cast of supporting characters, who I am sure will play a key role in books to come. My favorite of these characters is Terrible, who earns his name working as the heavy on behalf of Chess’s dealer. I loved that Kane first depicts him as unattractive, but then reveals his many appealing attributes, both physical and not physical, as the book goes on. At one point Chess realizes that far from ugly, Terrible’s face has character. This is a great portrayal of how we perceive those around us as they grow dear, and his character is terribly dear. (Ba-dum-dum.)

I actually listened to the audio book version of Unholy Ghosts. I have mixed feeling about the narration. The narrator did a great job of portraying the take-off on urban slang used in the downside neighborhoods where most of the book takes place. On the other hand, her Asian characters had almost the same accent as the rest of the downsiders. Maybe it was intentional, but it did not seem to fit.

The cover is fine. There is nothing wrong with it, it is well balanced and features good font usage. However, there is nothing overly compelling about it. It depicts Chess giving a typical intense over-the-shoulder look. One thing that is well-done is that as a whole, the series has created an easily identifiable look to them, with the exception of book 3 (what’s up with that?).

This book was gritty and dark, just what I love in Urban Fantasy. I am looking forward to the rest of the series.

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