Ed. note: Unholy Magic is the second in Stacia Kane’s excellent urban fantasy Downside Ghosts series. The first book is Unholy Ghosts (our review). We’re currently giving away copies of both books, you can enter here. Or just read our Q&A with Stacia Kane.
Rating (out of 5): 5 stars
In Unholy Magic, we dive deeper into the two worlds Chess exists within: The Church of Truth and Downside.
Prostitutes in Downside are being murdered in heinous ways with the tinge of dark, sex-tinged magic hanging over their mutilated and branded corpses. The moment her official dealer Bump has the chance, he calls in ‘his’ churchwitch to figure out the cause. Chess has maintained her booty call/drug connection with Lex, so she ends up agreeing to work the same job from rival dealer Slobag’s side, too. She’s wedged between warring drug lords, where one wrong step could lead to death, not just hers.
All the working girls are convinced it’s a specific serial killer’s ghost. The ghosts they’re focused on has been in Church prison for years. As such, we get to see more inside the Church of Truth headquarters. Stacia Kane paints the scenes vividly, particularly when Chess ventures into one of the deepest Church ghost prisons to confirm the serial killer is still caged. Her description of our heroine’s descent into this man-made hell for ghosts is startling, adding to the overall understanding of this alternate future Kane has created.
In Unholy Ghosts, Chess was without anyone in her life. No one relied on her or was invested in her welfare for altruistic purposes. In this series we see lots of people use Chess, but we also start to see a real connection form between Chess and Terrible. She has trouble accepting the possibility of trust, but wants it. Her loose relationship with Lex begins to weigh on her. She crashes with him, lets him supply her drugs and keeps it all from Terrible. She finally has to begin looking at what damage she could be doing to these potential friendships, a first for her.
That worry, though, can’t overcome her addiction. In Unholy Magic we see the depths of Chess’ addiction, the truth that functional addiction is an unrealistic hope. As a result, we also see more clearly how easily Chess can be manipulated. She’s lost control – not just to her addiction, but also of her freedom. She’s miserable and sees the steps to regaining her life as giving up. In Unholy Magic she has to face the truth of her situation and make the decision if her life with the Church, with friends, with lovers is worth a change.
With increased intensity, Kane delivers an action-packed, dark urban fantasy novel that will leave you reeling for days after finishing it. (We actually pre-ordered the third novel, City of Ghosts, the day after completion of Unholy Magic because we don’t want to waste even a day not knowing what will happen with Chess, her job, the love-triangle and the others within Downside.)