Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Series Review: Downside Ghosts by Stacia Kane

The Chess Putnam series is a cross between Ghostbusters and Escape From New York, with an awesome punk rock soundtrack, black magic, greasers, drugs, human sacrifices, and a black 1969 Chevelle.
By now you've probably already heard of this daring urban fantasy series, you've heard of the the junkie, churchwich heroine and the "Terrible fever" that seems to affect so many readers after reading the Downside series. If you haven't heard of this series, you're missing out! However, the Downside Ghost series is not going to be for everyone.

I wasn't sure I even wanted to read it. I was concerned about Chess being a drug addict. I had trouble with Rhevenge, J.R. Ward's pimptastic hero. The drug dealer/pimp as hero didn't really work for me. I expected the junkie heroine not to work for me either. Oh how close minded of me!

While I can't say that I warmed to Chess immediately; I didn't dislike her like I had anticipated I would. I was afraid her addiction would just piss me off. But surprisingly it didn't. Sure, there were a few times that I was like d'uh if you weren't a junkie you wouldn't be in this situation but then Chess would acknowledge that same thought. She's not in denial about her addiction or the problems it creates for her. Sparklebearsy, in her review of Unholy Ghosts explained how she felt about Chess saying:
"Im all on board for a flawed heroine, i've read drug addicts before and loved the characters, but there seemed to be no reason why Chess took drugs like she did. . ."
I can see where this would frustrate some readers. However, I felt that Chess alluded to her past and that it was quite grim.

That is how I interpreted her motivations for getting high. I think in the second book, Unholy Magic, readers get a little more insight into Chess's past and a better idea of how Chess views herself. And it ain't good. Aside from her pride in the work she does for the Church, Chess has very little self esteem. She doesn't think she's worth much as a person and I guess that's the attitude one must have to abuse their body with the sheer volume of drugs that Chess consumes.

Another thing I was worried about with an addict heroine was the possible glamorization of drug use. But I think it should pointed out that Kane did not, in any way, glamorize Chess's addiction. Kane showed time and time again how Chess's chemical dependence got her into a shit load of problems without making it sound like an anit-drug campaign either. I think she balanced a tricky subject very well.

I really enjoyed the world Kane built. It's a post-apocalyptic world but instead of a war, disease, or natural disaster threatening humanity, it's the dead. The dead rose, not as zombies but as ghosts. In it's wake the government fell and world religions ceased to exist in the face of the Church of Real Truth. I find this aspect of the story interesting, this lack of faith and traditional religion. There is no longer any mystery to what comes after we die. Your ghost is hauled off to the City of Eternity where it chills for...well, eternity.

I was also surprised at how creepy and scary the series was. Make no mistake while the description depicts this as part "Ghostbusters" we're not talking silly, comedic 80's Bill Murray stuff here. And the magic? We're not talking Harry Potter. Voldemort's got nothing on the Downside villains. While this book is categorized as urban fantasy it could just as easily be dubbed straight up horror. So keep that in mind you faint of heart!

Lastly, I can't talk about this series without mentioning Terrible. Ah, Terrible what can we say about him? He's basically an anit-hero. He's not particularly attractive, Chess even describes him as ugly, he's the right hand man and muscle for Bump, one of Downside's major under lords. But he's there for Chess. He's strong and is as good a man as can be expected in his line of work. And our Chessie isn't exactly Suzy Homemaker, she and Terrible make sense together. But of course Chess's addiction manages to get her in trouble with the one man she actually cares about. While some readers seemed puzzled by Terrible's appeal, I definitely have Terrible Fever. But don't worry, there's a support group for that.
I really did love this series. Hell, I read them all in a row and I rarely do that. I like to spread a series out and mix things up so as not to get burned out. I'm not a glommer. But I needed these books like Chess needs her pills. Kane has created an utterly addictive and terrifying world that leaves readers jonesin' for more.

Unfortunately, we'll have to wait until Fall 2011 for Book 4 and Spring 2012 for Book 5.

Since I reviewed the series as a whole I'm rating it as a whole as well.


A Buckeye Girl Reads: Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic, City of Ghosts, Music in Downside
Fiction Vixen: Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic, City of Ghosts
Lurv a la Mode: Unholy Ghosts
Smexy Books: Unholy Magic, City of Ghosts
Smokin' Hot Books: Unholy Ghosts & Unholy Magic
Supernatural Snark: Unholy Ghosts & Unholy Magic, City of Ghosts
Wicked lil Pixie: Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic, City of Ghosts , Interview with Stacia Kane
Yummy Men & Kick Ass Chicks: Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic
Top 10 Reasons to Read Unholy Ghosts & Downside Fashion Show (Fiction Vixen & Wicked lil Pixie on Smexy Books)


  1. Hmm. I am sold. Will have to read this series.

  2. YAY! Looking forward to your thoughts!

  3. I'm thrilled the first three books were released back to back. Can you imagine if we had to wait? As I'm sure you know I LOVE this series. I might just camp out on Stacia Kane's door step until the next book is published! :) Nice review.

  4. FV, I know so glad to get to read them all back to back!!! But now we have such a friggin' long wait for books 4 & 5. *tear*

    There might be several deaths via Terrible withdrawl on the horizon...

  5. Wow, 5 strawberries?!? You know, the addiction is what turned me off when I started reading the book. However, I guess I should persevere :P

  6. great great review! while i recognize the covers, and maybe one of the titles i didn't really know about this series. your review really put it in perspective for me, i especially enjoyed this part, "...Kane did not, in any way, glamorize Chess's addiction. Kane showed time and time again how Chess's chemical dependence got her into a shit load of problems without making it sound like an anit-drug campaign either."

    i also appreciate you mentioned it has some "horror" parts, since i have a VERY weak stomach.

    all in all this is going on my back-burner wish list after not even being on my radar before reading your review. i think ill have to be a very specific mood to pick these up.

  7. OMG loved this series sooo much. The characters are perfect and flawed (ironic I know). The atmosphere is seedy and devastated. The lingo is ingenious. The whole concept of the dead, even loved ones being such a threat is completely original. And it works unbelievably well. These spectres seem so sinister. The way Kane describes Chess' drug addiction and withdrawl is profound. Can't fault these books. They have become my favourites. Team Terrible all the way.


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