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on 13 October 2011
Wow. Just, wow. I want to read it again! In fact, I think I may just have to go back a revisit a couple of select passages before I can move onto another book as they are whirling around in my head, so if I re-read them, it might make them stop!

As you'll recall from book two, Terrible found Chess and Lex in the graveyard in an extremely compromising position. His initial reaction was overshadowed by the events towards the end of the last book. Now that things have settled with the ghosts, the full extent of Terrible's anger and bitterness becomes evident. And boy, is he mad! It's horrible to read through (in a good way). I don't know why I was as surprised by it as I was. I mean, I've known right from the start that Terrible, as a drug dealer's Enforcer, has the ability to be both cold and ruthless when dealing with non-payers for Bump, but never would I have expected the extent of the callous bitterness he showed towards Chess in this book. He's always been so good to her! Sure, I understand his anger, and feel he is entitled to it to an extent, but...ouch! That boy can be mean when he's hurting!

Chess' character is such a hot mess, and I don't like a lot of the decisions she's made up until this point, but she really didn't mean to hurt Terrible - it wasn't done maliciously - so you can't really feel as angry towards her as he does. She's trying to deal with the ghost situation as best she can, whilst being forced to be in Terrible's company once again. I felt very proud of her ability to remain calm and collect in the face of Terrible's volatile countenance, and in reaction to his caustic comments...until. Yeah, until. That scene is the one I want to read again!

I recommend these books on audio for two reasons: one, the lady that does them is excellent and did a fantastic job; and two, trying to actually read the "Downside speak" yourself, will likely make your eyes fall out. Probably. It could happen. Okay, not really, but it's certainly easier to have it read to you, that's for sure. I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing it this way this time.

The next book in this fabulous, original series is Sacrificial Magic, out 27th March 2012. Can't. Flipping. Wait!
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on 28 July 2010
I read Unholy Ghosts (Downside Ghosts, Book 1)and loved it. I read Downside Ghosts (2) - Unholy Magic and loved it more. I didn't think it could get any better - then I read Downside Ghosts (3) - City of Ghosts...

Firstly, I would just like to say that reading this book was a bittersweet experience - I really, really didn't want it to end. Downside Ghosts is now officially my favourite series EVER.

City of Ghosts itself deserves six stars out of five - the story was action packed, suspenseful, scary and perfectly paced. Despite this the show was stolen, yet again, by the excellent character development that I have come to expect from these books. Our heroine, Chess, is still facing the repercussions of her actions in previous books. Her journey is alternately heart wrenching and heart warming and the reader is churned through Chess's emotional mangle with her every step of the way. I am literally exhausted after reading it (and not just because I stayed up all night reading!). I won't repeat the synopsis and I don't want to give spoilers but I will say that fans of the series wont be disappointed and fans of Terrible definitely wont be disappointed...

As readers, Stacia Kane gives us everything we wanted and more that we didn't even know we wanted until we got it. Every once in a while the stars or whatever will align, or a butterfly will flap its wings halfway across the world and a series will come along that is the perfect story told at the perfect time by the perfect author - this is Stacia Kane's perfect storm of a book. I truly hope Stacia gets the recognition she deserves for this series - she is the new Queen of Urban Fantasy and that fact is Truth ;)
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on 14 July 2011
This is the thrid book in Stacia Kanes Downside Ghosts series. If you haven't read the first two books I strongly advise you to before reading this installment. Please note that this review contains spoilers of the previous books.

The story picks up from where Unholy Magic left off with Terrible not talking to Chess after finding out about her and Lex. Again we are thrown straight into the story with Chess testifying and being witness to Madame Lupita's execution. The rest of the book is then fast paced and action packed.

Chess is asked to help Lauren from the Black Squad (the Church police) to investigate the Lamaru who are up to their old tricks again. Chess is promised a lot of money by the Church to do this but first she must take part in a binding ceremony to prevent her from talking to any unauthorised people about it. Chess agrees and receives purple tatoo binding marks on her wrists and arms that bleed when she is in breech of the binding.

The story unfolds with Chess and Lauren investigating the Lamaru getting into lots of scrapes along the way. There is a lot of fighting and action and whilst Chess is still poppng her pills this does seem to take a bit of a back seat to the other books. Terrible is in the book but does not take up much of the story at first because he won't have anything to do with Chess. Chess is devasted about this and it does feature all throughout the book. I found this heartbreaking like I was in Chess's shoes it was so well written and came across brilliantly. I loved this book and therefore will give it 5 stars. If you enjoyed the first two books I would definitely recommend this book. I can't wait for the next installment.
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on 29 October 2012
This third installment in the adventures of Cesaria Putnam, debunker, sees the drug-addicted witch of the Church of Truth joining the elite Black Squad in order to investigate strange goings on in Downside. It doesn't take long before Chess is spending as much time hanging around with her drug dealer's enforcer Terrible as she is working with her obnoxious Black Squad partner.

City of Ghosts finally sees the action focus a little more firmly on the City, an underground realm where the spirits of the dead roam tranquilly. Frequently alluded to in the first two books, it's frustrating the way in which the City is being unveiled very slowly throughout the series, but it shows great discipline on the part of Stacia Kane. I also note that after three full books, Chess still hasn't made it down to the Pipes 'onscreen' - the drug den whose oblivion she craves so much.

For once in my life I've read this series in publication order, but I would also say that Kane has taken pains to ensure that any new Downside reader can pick up the important threads and carry on from City of Ghosts. But there's also no mistaking the fact that the worldbuilding has largely been done, and that Kane is able to use the extra narrative room to develop her characters' relationships and interior lives.

The writing is fresh, the scary bits are scary, and the sexy bits are sexy. All in all, this is highly entertaining urban fantasy at its sharpest.

If I had a single criticism, it would be that the book's magical battles sometimes defy belief as characters put together little spells by burning multiple ingredients in a firedish in the middle of a frenzied action sequence. It's a bit like that bit in Shrek where Princess Fiona has time to adjust her hair before finishing a bullet time kick to Robin Hood. It occasionally made me chuckle, but that's a very small niggle about a great book.
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on 6 January 2012
third book in a fantastic series. when i read the first book Unholy Ghosts i was a little irritated by the downside way of speaking but as the stories take off i notice it less and less. this follows on from previous book and sees Chess seriously messed up by mistakes made in her love life and desparate to win Terribles affection and boy does that man know how to give!the plot keeps twisting and although i had an idea who was the baddy in this book it got very interesting and blew me away.not as much detailed sex as some authors but written with incredible passion and made me want a terrible of my own!!! read the series!!!5*
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on 24 September 2010
City of Ghosts is the third book about Chess Putnam, as she goes through the business of debunking hauntings. In this novel Chess is drawn into a Black Squad (government department) investigation, bound to silence about her doings. She struggles to work through the meagre clues of the case as danger tightens around her, throwing everyone she cares about into the gravest peril.

I'll say straight out that I adore this series, but I find that most series tend to have a weaker book. In my opinion, City of Ghosts is that book for Downside Ghosts.

I still greatly love all of the encounters between Chess and Terrible, which are heartbreaking and blisteringly sexy by turn. However, the whole plot dealing with Lauren from the Black Squad and their investigation seems unnecessarily complicated. We have not only the Lamanu kicking up trouble again (after encountering them in the first novel of the series), but also bodies in the street, psychopomps going mad, and a strange character called Mcguinness creeping into the frame.

To handle all of those plot elements in a tale that also seeks to provide a conclusion to very difficult personal relationships is a step too far, in my opinion, and the novel feels too rushed.

Chess' drug use also takes a massive back seat in City of Ghosts. We've seen her dependency increase, especially in the second novel where she found herself blackmailed thanks to the amount she was taking. But here we only see one real instance where it is key to the storyline. I feel like Kane wavered a little in how far to take this element.

With all that said, City of Ghosts is still a superior example of urban fantasy. Kane's worldbuilding is without peer in this genre, presenting us with the Church and psychopomps, and then the scary Downside where Chess makes her life. The food, the markets, the characters all come to startling life.

I'm thrilled that Stacia Kane is writing further books in the Downside series. The adventures of Chess are deeply satisfying, leaving you feeling real emotion about the heroine. Hopefully we won't have to wait too long to read more -- I will be at the front of the queue.
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on 8 January 2011
This is the third installment of the Downside Ghost series, and just like a vintage bottle of malt whiskey, it just keeps getting better.
The plot is wonderful and entralling but the true talent of Ms Kane is how she brings the characters alive. I loved all the characters despite their flaws (or perhaps because of them) and the relationship between Terrible and Chess had me holding my breathe in suspense! Their chemistry is ten times better than anything I've seen in the Trueblood or Antia Blake series.

This book is one of the best in the Urban Fantasty genre and on Ms Kane's website she's says that a fourth and fifth book are under negogations to be written in America, and will come out in the UK if its popular enough here. So buy the book and please make this come true!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 31 December 2012
I can only repeat what I have said before about this series, the fact that the main character is the epitome of an anti-heroine is what makes this and the other books in the series such a remarkable read.
There is no clutching to automated structures or regurgitated plots, which are common in this genre. It is fresh and new, whilst being dirty and downtrodden at the same time.
The main character is just one big mess and I for one enjoy the abrupt honesty of it.
One thing I really wanted to mention in my review is the way the author handled the scene with Chess and Lauren after the fire. Kane has managed to slip one of the most poignant sentences into that scenario, that I have ever read in relation to that topic, in a fictional book."There is no'should have.'"
Also worth a mention is the impeccable build up of Terrible and Chess, which was without a doubt superbly done.
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** I strongly advise reading Unholy Ghosts and Unholy Magic before reading CITY OF GHOSTS as characters names from the earlier books come up from time to time, the characters relationships are complicated and gaining an understanding to the background of 'The Church' is needed to fully understand the rules here and the way things work **

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Basic background info
(No major spoilers)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In 1997 every ghost in the world raised up and killed two thirds of the population in just one week. World leaders were powerless, prayers went unanswered, resulting in every government and religion collapsing. Eventually a group were able to imprison most of the ghosts in a huge underground city - they called their organization The Church Of Real Truth.

The Church Of Real Truth is today the world's only power; there is no other government, no other faith, just The Church. They are in the process of hunting the ghosts that remain uncaptured and compensating the unlucky people being haunted. To find the ghosts the Church educates and trains witches [known as debunkers] to find and capture the ghosts, and find the fraudsters faking a haunting to try and defraud money out of the Church.

Cesaria 'Chess' Putnam is one of these debunkers. In fact her recent work on previous cases has put her in high esteem of her superiors. But what they don't know is that she has been leading a double life of sorts. She has a drug addiction and her drug dealer [Bump] views her as one of his lackeys that shall do his bidding for him whenever he so chooses.

Aside from hiding her drug addiction from her employees, Chess is also hiding something from Bump; Her involvement with a rival drug dealer's enforcer - Lex - who has been supplying her with free drugs. As her life becomes more complicated and she has to lie on a regular basis and keep more and more secrets, she takes an increasing amount of drugs to drown her feelings, thoughts and self-disgust.

- - - - - - - - - -
In a nutshell
- - - - - - - - - -

The church offers Chess a chance to work with the elite Black Squad agency [similar to a FBI type of agency]- but until she agrees to take the case and undergo a magical binding [a magical gagging order] none of the details will be shared with her. Her first instinct is to refuse; She'd have to work with Lauren, the squad's leader who Chess takes an instant dislike to and there's the small matter of the magical bind, which will cause her death if she talks about the case with people who aren't authorized. But she is offered a generous bonus, so - having a growing addiction to handle - she agrees to take the case.

So this is why Chess is now hunting a group who uses black magic, leaves mutilated bodies all over town and who are plotting to overthrow The Church. Seeing as Chess has no luck but bad luck Bump quickly learns how she has been leading Black Squad members over his turf and demands to know what's going on, dragging Chess into even more trouble when she can't tell him. Just when she thinks that life can't get any worse it does; Bump orders Terrible to stick close to Chess and report back to him. Normally Chess would find working closely with Terrible enjoyable, but he now hates her with a passion and if he's not ignoring her he's verbally abusing her.

It looks like it's going to be one hell of a case...

The plot layout for CITY OF GHOSTS is different to the earlier books in that there is only one case Chess is working - before she always had one professional case and one secret one running parallel to each other. This means that the author was able to spend more time fleshing out all of the secondary characters and make the villains even more menacing.

The concept of a magical binding is also used to full advantage; It adds real tension to the story as Chess is unable to warn anyone about the
impending danger when no-one she's working with takes her suspicions seriously. This also provides a realistic reason for her to keep working the case when most other people would run - She's the only person who can see the threat and can literally save the world.

Chess herself isn't someone I should like and root for, but I do. Even as she gobbles her drugs like smarties, uses people for sex and hurts the only person who has looked out for her. It speaks volumes for Stacia Kane's writing ability that I still want to see Chess come out on top. I also love that chess isn't the best of the best at her job, she doesn't do Buffy-style roundhouse kicks and she doesn't have mystical powers developing here, there and everywhere. She has numerous flaws and makes mistakes, shes human.

but I think Chess comes second to Terrible this time around. He's also someone I shouldn't like; He's the enforcer for Chess' drug dealer, so terrorises and beats on people for the money they owe Bump, he admits that he has killed people and is drinking through the job with Chess, childishly ignoring and snubbing her in life-or-death situations. But through it all his hurt, insecurities and feelings of being betrayed are plain to see and I just want to give him a big hug.

I never took to the character Lex in the first two books; But this time I do feel a bit of sympathy for him. I suspect that he may have been using Chess, but she has been using him too; She uses sex to empty her mind and experience the highs - pretty much the same way she uses drugs. I'm left wondering if maybe he has developed feelings for her, whilst she has spent all of the time pining for another man?

I found the two earlier books perfect, but CITY OF GHOSTS has blown them out of the water. It's been a while since I've been this excited over an UF [urban fiction] book (the genre is overcrowded with samey books) and was counting down the days to release; That this series hasn't been more popular is a crime.

** The Downside Ghosts was originally a trilogy, but Stacia has recently confirmed that she is writing a 4h and 5h book for the series for her US publishers. No exact release date yet, but it's planned for autumn 2011/spring 2012. I don't know if they'll be published in the UK, as the series hasn't been as popular here **
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on 9 August 2010
I was recommended this series by a friend who thought I might like it as I am a huge fan of Charlaine Harris and Stephenie Meyer, I now cannot thank him enough.
I admit I was a little unsure about the Downside Ghosts series at first as I found the drug addict angle and "downside speak" a bit off putting and confusing, respectively. However, please if you too felt the same way-persevere! The alternative view of ghosts and magic are fresh and inventive and the creation of damaged but lovable Chess is welcomed with open arms.
City of Ghosts is a rollercoaster of action, suspense and heart break, Chess's latest case is probably the hardest she has had to deal with.
Mutilated body parts are turning up around Downside and dark black magic is at the centre, Chess is to ally herself with a Black Squad member she does not like or trust and Bump is in on the action as the bodies are found in his area. Rebelling psychopomps, dark curse magic, smoke and mirrors villans and being forced to work with Terrible whilst he still despises her? Yep, definitely the hardest case so far.
The plot of City of Ghosts is very different from Unholy Ghosts and Unholy Magic, this is one of the things I love about Kane, she does not repeat herself and keeps the story fresh. A neat twist toward the end caught me by surprise (I usually pride myself on seeing it coming, but not this time!) and seeing more in to Chess's traumatic past allows the reader to further bond with her broken character.
For me though the running story line of "will they, won't they" between Chess and Terrible is what gripped me to this book the most, I read all 408 pages in just over 24 hours, and that was with being at work all day today. I won't give anything away as I wouldnt want to spoil the ending for new readers, but this particular sub-plot reaches a satisfying conclusion.
I feel Kane's story telling is most realistic through these 2 characters, barriers between them are believable and the twists and turns in their faltering relationship kept me turning the pages long after I should have turned the light out for a 5.30am start. Kane almost brought me to tears at times with some of Terrible's speeches...coming from a man who spends his days beating the living bells out of junkies who owe his boss money and thoroughly scaring Downside's residents with his imposing and terrifying image. But where Chess is concerned, she has gotten to him like no other and hurt him worse than anyone has ever dared try. Kane's delicate handling of their tempestuous yet tender relationship makes me want to read more and more of this series, coupled with the unpredictable and exciting characterisation of Downside and its inhabitants.
I know I have waffled somewhat but I urge anyone who takes the time to read my review to give this series, little publicised in the UK, a fair chance....I assure you that you won't regret it. Truth is Fact!
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