I originally saw this new series by Stacia Kane mentioned on Karen Marie Moning's blog. She said some really fantastic things about it. She called it "dark, edgy, sexy" and said that it "pushes the envelope." "Urban Fantasy at its finest" she called it. Well, that definitely caught my attention. So I went to Goodreads to read up on the series. To be honest, after reading the blurbs, I didn't think I would enjoy the books and decided against checking them out. But the buzz surrounding this book was overwhelming! It was impossible to visit blogland and not see it being raved about. Fiction Vixen -- 5 hearts. Wicked Little Pixie -- 4.5 stars. All Things Urban Fantasy -- 4 bats. Smokin' Hot Books -- 5 smooches! Hmm...Then I thought maybe I was a little quick to dismiss this series. So, while on vacation (which, of course, included a visit to the book store) I picked up "Unholy Ghosts" and read it. And what did I think?
The world that Kane created is very interesting. Ghosts have been banished, but some escape (or hide out) and haunt and hurt people. Chess' job as a Debunker is to get rid of them -- to send them back where they should be. Reality for the people of Downside is quite grim. There is no religion as proof of an afterlife has become a scientific fact. The Church (Chess' employer) rules and pays anyone for the inconvenience of being haunted. Chess must try to disprove their claims. If anyone is caught fabricating a ghost story just to get paid, they are punished -- and Chess is rewarded.
This is not a fluffy, cutesy bunny rabbits running through a field of yellow buttercup flowers kind of book. This is a raw, gritty and dark story set in an equally raw and gritty setting. It is no way a paranormal romance title -- it's a real urban fantasy tale. You do get a smidgen of romantic tension, but overall the story is about Chess, her mission and her addiction.
Chess is one of the most complex characters that I have read in a while. She is a drug addict. At first, I wondered how that would play out and affect her persona -- and my opinion of her. It didn't take long before I noticed that her drug dependence added a vulnerability to her. I like that the 'high' aspect of Chess is not played up. This book is not a pro-drug ad, nor is it an anti-drug ad. But the drugs do play an important role in the story. They are part of Chess and her life. They affect her reactions to the situations she is faced with -- both good and bad. They show how she has trouble dealing with her life without having a crutch and make you wonder all the more about her and what brought this dependence on. Therefore, you keep reading. Chess is strong and brave, but very human. She feels scared and alone. She has trouble relating to people and forming relationships. I think that is why her relationship with Terrible is so captivating.
Terrible is another interesting character. He is not an attractive man; therefore he is not your typical hero. He is Chess' drug dealers' strong arm. But he helps Chess along her mission and proves to be invaluable to her and her job. He is a good person and a good guy to have on your side. He may even be a good friend for Chess. Now if only she would let him in... Lex, a competing drug lord's something (we're not too sure) is a compelling character too. The 'street' dialogue took a little getting used to, but it quickly became an easy reference as to what side of the tracks the characters come from. After a while, it even made me smile.
Overall, the story was gripping and hard to put down. The second half of the book was really exciting. The last few chapters were a real rush and impossible to put down. "Unholy Ghosts" is an impressive start to a series that holds great potential. I'm looking forward to reading more about Chess and Terrible in the next book "Unholy Magic".