Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Size: 352 pages
Publisher: Del ReyRelease
Date: May 25, 2010
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the Downside Ghosts series
Source: Audiobook through Audible.com
Rating: 4/5 stars
This is the first book in Kane’s Downside Ghosts series. The fifth book in this series, Chasing Magic, comes out the end of June 2012. This was a gritty urban fantasy and a creative idea featuring some very flawed characters. I enjoyed it for its creativity. I listened to this on audiobook.
The audiobook was decently done. I wasn’t crazy about the narrator; her voice bothered me a little. The narrator did distinguish between characters fairly well; although a few of the male characters sounded very similar and were hard to tell apart. I wouldn’t strongly recommend listening to this on audiobook, but it was okay.
Chess is a Church witch in a world where the Church of Real Truth runs everything. Some time ago the ghosts rose up and murdered two-thirds of humanity. The third that is left is beholden to the Church of Real Truth for keeping the viscous spirits locked up. Chess is a debunker for the Church and checks out hauntings to see whether they are real or not. Chess has a secret though; she is also a drug addict heavily in debt to a dealer named Bump. Bump forces her to check out a haunting at an airport for him in order to clear her debt. Little does Chess know that Bump’s job for her will collide with some other dark happenings that involve the Church.
The concept behind this world is intriguing. It is an urban fantasy with a post-apocalyptic feel to it. Two thirds of the population was murdered by ghosts during Haunted Week. Now the rest of society ekes out what living it can while supporting the Church of Real Truth. The Church of Real Truth keeps ghosts trapped in the City of Eternal Life and grants large rewards to anyone who has a haunting (since it means the Church failed in its duty to contain ghosts).
Pretty interesting world but also very dark. It follows that the characters are incredibly dark as well. The story also has a number of parts that make you think “Yuck!” Kane doesn’t pull her punches on gory descriptions.
Chess is an interesting character. She is a drug addict so a big portion of her life is driven by her need to feed her habit. This gets her into some trouble and sucks her money. Interestingly enough though she functions okay for her job and manages to hide her addiction from her co-workers. What also makes her interesting is her dedication to do what needs to be done. At one point she has to choose between a day of oblivion sucking on the pipes and hunting down some info; she chooses to do her job despite her yearnings. She also occasionally uses drugs to aid her in her work; speed to keep her awake during a curse that makes her want to sleep…stuff like that. So she functions remarkably well considering.
Chess has a very dark background; she bounced through foster homes, many of which she suffered numerous kinds of abuse as a child at. This is occasionally discussed but never in great detail. I just wanted to mention it because it is one more level of darkness added to the story.
The characters surrounding Chess are just as flawed and just as hard to like; but they still have a lot of depth and are well done. Even though these characters are all hard to like, that doesn’t mean they don’t engage the reader well. Of the surrounding characters my favorite was Terrible; he is basically the hitman for Bump and gets assigned to protect Chess on her investigation. Terrible is a wonderful mix of contradictions; he is loyal yet vicious, he is quick to injure and kill yet gentle with Chess. Really he is just a wonderfully interesting character.
The mystery in the book is very well done and the plot never slows down. There are many seemingly separate story arcs that tie in well together. There were a couple times in the story where Chess made logical mental jumps that didn’t make sense to me as the reader; I suppose you could blame the drugs but hopefully in future books the reasoning will be better done.
Overall I enjoyed reading this book. I didn’t like the characters a ton, but they were interesting. I loved the idea behind the world, the mystery, and the magic. I am curious to learn more about this world. Just a warning that this is a pretty dark and gritty urban fantasy; so if you don’t like gross, gory or gritty I wouldn’t recommend reading this book. Recommended to fans of dark and gritty urban fantasy.