Review: Unholy Magic (Downside Ghosts Book 2)

Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane

  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey (July 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345515587
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345515582

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For Chess Putnam, finding herself near-fatally poisoned by a con psychic and then stopping a murderous ghost is just another day on the job. As an agent of the Church of Real Truth, Chess must expose those looking to profit from the world’s unpleasant little poltergeist problem—humans filing false claims of hauntings—all while staving off any undead who really are looking for a kill. But Chess has been extra busy these days, coping with a new “celebrity” assignment while trying on her own time to help some desperate prostitutes.

Someone’s taking out the hookers of Downside in the most gruesome way, and Chess is sure the rumors that it’s the work of a ghost are way off base. But proving herself right means walking in the path of a maniac, not to mention standing between the two men in her life just as they—along with their ruthless employers—are moving closer to a catastrophic showdown. Someone is dealing in murder, sex, and the supernatural, and once again Chess finds herself right in the crossfire.


In the first book of the series you are introduced to a wide array of characters including a main character who is a functional addict. In this book you see not only into the depths of depravity that ghosts can go to in their hatred of the living, but also the depths of the addiction that has a hold of Chess. But that is a side plot to the real mystery at the heart of these books.

The more time you spend around Chess, Terrible, Lex and the other characters that make up Downside, the deeper they become. There are no two dimensional characters in this book and the more I found out about them, the more difficult it becomes to justify liking them. The more dysfunctional addict she seems. Even with all that you find yourself rooting for them – wanting them to evolve and “get better.” The reality of it though is that there really isn’t much getting better. Recovery from her addiction is a long road. One that you want to see her take even if it will be painful to watch.

Take away the characters – flaws and all – and you are still left with a strong fantasy plot. Put those characters back in and you have a real story. There has been a lot of talk recently in the author blogs and reviews with not limiting the stories authors tell and the redefining of a genre. I would have to side with that end of the debate with regards to this series. Kane is redefining the heroine role in urban fantasy. Redefining it and making it her own. She is also does not seem to be censoring herself in these tales.

Overall I am giving this book what I think is my first 5 star rating. It pushes the limits of the story, the characters and even goes so far as to add a flowing form of slang in the Downspeak that makes many of these characters really pop for me without making the prose hard to understand. By the end of this second book I practically feel fluent – if not conversational – in Downspeak.

Following this A+ review is a description of one of my favorite scenes. As this will contain a spoiler, I am including it at the end and moving it down a bit further so that those of you who have not read the book yet can choose to avoid it.

Seriously, the spoilers are coming.

I mean it. I am counting it down.

In 10…










Well, if you are still here you have either read the book, or are OCD enough that you had to follow those numbers down to one.

One of the most difficult scenes for me to read was also one of the most powerful ones for me in the book. In it, Chess is caught in a blizzard without access to her pills. Without the availability to her drugs she begins hard withdrawal symptoms. While I have not been an addict or gone through that personally, I have gone through a rather nasty spinal injury. Reading that made me think back to the night where it hit me the hardest and left me leaning in a corner contemplating how hard I would have to hit my head against the wall to make the pain stop. To this day I joke about the only thing that kept me from trying it is knowing my wife would have hurt me worse if I had cracked the plaster on the wall.

For me that scene was a turning point. That was the point where I accepted the fact that one of my favorite characters in the book was not really a functional addict. It drove home to me that she was self-destructive and reckless in her addiction. I was thinking it before, but that scene really nailed it in place.

Even after that scene though, I still wanted to see her get better. I still wanted to see her make her way towards being free of the addiction. And most of all I really wanted to see her be happy. Which is one of the reasons I will keep reading this series. The hope that no matter how strong her addiction she can recover from it – that and it makes her feel like a real person with real problems stemming from the gifts that make her the heroine of the book.


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