(Downside Ghosts #5)
Release: June 26, 2012
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.
"Warmth spread through her chest and up to her face, warmth that had nothing to do with pills or booze or anything else. It was trust heating her from the inside, making her feel like a real live person who mattered. The kind of trust she didn't think he gave to anyone else. The thought made something swell inside her, something wonderful and painful all of once. The kind of trust she knew she didn't deserve."
Stacia Kane knocks another one out of the park with my favorite installment so far in this gritty and intense urban fantasy series.
If you know me you know that I am a nut about the Downside Ghosts series and its one of my all time favorites. Chasing Magic just reiterates all the reasons why I am obsessed with this series! It was just as dark, emotional, and sordid as all the others in the series but with so much more moments between Chess and Terrible that reminded me why I love them so much.
This series is not for everyone. Its just not. The heroine, Chess Putnam, is an avid drug user constantly trying to drown out memories of a horrific childhood and the accompanying feelings of worthlessness that invade her mind on a daily basis. Kane's uncompromising portrayal of Chess is one of my favorite things about this series. I have never read another book that digs so deeply into the mind and soul of its main character. Kane certainly doesn't glorify drug use, but neither does she give Chess unrealistic characteristics or goals. Chess is Chess.
"Funny. Some people thought addicts were lazy, but it took an enormous amount of work and time. Making sure she put things back exactly where they belonged so she could find them no matter how fucked up she was, making notes on everything so she wouldn't forget, trying to do things in a set routine as much as possible. She devoted a lot of energy to appearing normal, to not giving anyone a reason to suspect; it was a very small price to pay."
Even though she is a strong and powerful witch, she can't seem to move past her insecurities and poor self-concept. She sees herself as a useless junkie and slut who doesn't really deserve any better than what she has always had in life. In Chasing Magic Chess sees herself the same as always, and most of her inner thoughts in this one focus on her feeling like she doesn't deserve Terrible. That she should do something to end it soon before he figures out how horrible and worthless she is. Reading these thoughts is horribly disturbing and sad, because the reader knows that Chess is much better and more deserving than she thinks she is. Perhaps one day Chess will come to the same conclusion, but knowing Kane she will not rush anything in order to give us a happy ending for Chess. Her pacing of Chess' growth has been slow and realistic so far and even though she does have some wavering feelings of strength and power in this one, showing us some possible glimmers of hope for her future, she still remains the Chess we know, love, and pity.
In this book we explore Chess and Terrible's relationship a little more. In the previous book, Sacrificial Magic, their relationship was new and the focus was on how Chess felt about being in a relationship. In Chasing Magic that exploration is continued, but on a much deeper level. Chess has admitted to herself and to Terrible that she is completely in love with him. For a drug addict with no sense of self worth, it is extremely difficult for Chess to accept that Terrible feels the same way about her. Reading her thoughts and feelings is just so painful and I was on a nonstop rollercoaster of emotions. My heart went out to Chess even though she is a fictional character and not even a real person!
Terrible is just as charming and lovable in this book as always. Sometimes in between books in this series I forget why it is that I adore him so damn much, but Chasing Magic reminded me why I love me some Terrible. He loves Chess come hell or high water, and he sticks by her side knowing who and what she is, always there for her at her best or worst.
"Shit. You so fuckin pretty, Chessie. True thing. So. . . . .ain't even can breathe sometimes."
There relationship is so stable and unstable at the same time. In this one we learn just how far Terrible is willing to go for Chess and his actions just solidify his place as one of my all-time favorite literary men. Every time he calls her 'Chessiebomb' or stumbles over his words when talking to her I just absolutely melt. And don't even get me started on their hot moments together!
"Mine. It was a snarl, low and harsh in her ears as he spun her around..."
Of course Lex makes an appearance, and some trouble, in this book. He's an interesting and confusing character that I both love and hate. He can't just manage to leave Chess alone and that drives me crazy, but at the same time he obviously cares about Chess and is willing to help her out and protect her when needed. His actions in this book made me angry and then made me like him, and then made me angry, and so on and so on, and so on!
Elder Griffin, the only Church member that Chess is really close to, plays a big role in this installment. Toward the beginning of the book we finally get to see his wedding to Keith, but as the story evolves Chess and Elder Griffin's relationship unravels as some truths are revealed. The pain Chess feels over the possible loss of his friendship is almost unbearable sometimes. I am really intrigued to see how their relationship in the future will be affected by the things that have come out.
There is, of course, an actual magic-related mystery being solved throughout this book. It's wonderfully constructed and complicated and entertaining. But the crux of these novels is the characters, especially Chess and Terrible. I always enjoy the way Kane writes the magic in these books, its very different from the way witches and magic are typically portrayed in urban fantasies, but frankly its the characters that attract me to these stories.
SO, I um, liked the book? Yes, I liked it. . . . .A LOT. Stacia Kane could take a poo on the floor and call it "Pooping Magic" and I would almost certainly love it! She is an amazingly talented author that delivers again and again!
Recommended for fans of: Chess and Terrible, dark urban fantasies, damaged anti-heroines, the word fuck, excellent world building, adult dystopians.
This review is based on an advance copy of the book from Netgalley.