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VINE VOICEon 23 May 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This was an utterly compelling read. The story is totally original and in the crowded urban fantasy/horror market, Stacia Kane has produced something that stands out as wonderful. Some of the cover quotes mention 'ideal for fans of Charlaine Harris' and on this I would exert caution. If Charlaine Harris is at the softer end of your reading pleasure (as she is for me, a die hard horror fan) you will love this. If however, Charlaine is as dark as you want to go then Unholy Ghosts is not for you. because this is dark, sticky, violent stuff.

The basic story revolves around a not so distant future or alternative now where there has been a horrific surge in ghost activity. No moaning, chain rattling, making you jump type ghosts these. These are killing people indescriminately, violently, horribly and are not interested in communing with their ancestors. And so an offshoot of mystical belief that has the power to banish and subdue these murderous entities has replaced governments and religeons globally as the seat of power. This is the Church- but nothing remotely christian about it and this is not a religeous book in the slightest.

Chess is our notional heroine, a drug addicted adult orphan, been through the care system, been abused and hurt countless times and seeks refuge in the safety of Church power and her beloved drugs. As a largely functional addict, she bumbles through her life until she suddenly finds she has racked up more drug debt than she can pay back. Politely declining the offer of working the debt off on her back, she takes the alternative offer of clearing an abandoned airfield of a ghost so the local drug lord can start shipping in new product more cheaply. How hard can it be right? This is, afterall what she does for a living.And there the pedal firmly hits the metal- plot spirals into counter plot, threats mount and soon Chess is up to her eyeballs in trouble and sinking fast.

With a clear, detailed and well written style, moments of chilling fear, gruesome, horrific violence, gore and sweaty action, this is a truly exciting read. Be warned, there is quite a bit of drug discussion in this novel and addiction is never really discussed as a bad or problem ridden thing, just as the norm, so avoid giving this novel to an impressionablle or teen reader.

Just to really spice things up, Ms Kane has given us a bevvy of truly hot, hard and violent men that pepper the story. This includes the hottest, meanest, most intriguing and perplexing guy to stalk the pages of fiction for a while- Terrible. Wow what a character. If he was real i'd have to go find him, so hot under the collar did he get me! Unlike other urban horror though, this isn't a bonk fest like Laurell hamilton nor a twee romance like Ms Harris. This smacks of real life and the confusing, bewildering attraction we can all feel for someone who may do us no good whatsoever- or be just what we need.

I can't wait for the next installment of this series. Highly recommended.
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on 19 October 2010
I thought this book was one of the best urban fantasy books i have had the pleasure of in a while. Chess putnum is a class A heroin (LOL)She is kick ass but is not super together. The book has an aura of social commentary but not in a bad way. Chess is vulnerable, she doesn't live 'on campus' with the other churchwitches, she has had a hard life and lives in an area of town policed by two warring druglords. Chess gets involved with both but she has loyalties. The world building is beleivable, the side charachters are so intersting. Chess had dealings with both enforcers, Terrible who is Bump's underling, and Lee who is Slobag's. Be prepared to stay up with this one its fantastic.
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on 29 March 2012
Firstly I've got to say sorry to all those obviously avid fans of this series, Why? because I disagree with a lot of the reviews!!
I bought the first 2 in this series based on the great reviews and really thought I was getting a new and fresh style of writing in what can be a very repetitive genre. I am sorely disappointed. I've rated it a 3 star more for the plot which took me a little by surprise and not necessarily in a good way, and because I have a soft spot for Terrible. He's not a handsome, debonair Alpha male, but a truly "human" character with a huge heart. You like him for who he is, and not what he does.
The dialogue between the characters had me gritting my teeth with the usage of the mixtures of grammar, colloquialism and slang. I had to really concentrate to understand what they weren't saying and not what they were. Which meant I kept having to re read sections so I maintained what was going on.
I agree that being an addict puts a whole new facet on what can be a very typecast female lead but this addiction, in my mind, just took over the book and was used to fill in the majority of it's pages, rather like Pollyfiller. I just wanted Chess to "get on with it". Stop being a bit of a slapper (I mean 3 men on a lead, surely not!-Yeah she does)and stop whining about the DT's (sorry again-having a rant).
There were many references to the Church of Truth and the layers of hierarchy, but if I'm honest, I just didnt get it. I really needed more about why and how and where Chess actually fitted in other than being a Debunker. There were references to Titles for other characters,like the Liaisons, that create this whole The Church as a Big Brother that I needed to be able to explore more, but this book just doesn't give you the opportunity. It's all in passing.
Maybe it's just because this is the first book and it gets clearer as the series grows, I hope so I've got book 2 Unholy Magic to get through.
Hell, I'm not sure I have the patience to read and see.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
An urban fantasy novel, and the start of a trilogy. Urban fantasy meaning it's not a Tolkein style world, rather the modern world with fantasy elements.

In this life hasn't been the same since the day when the dead rose. Citizens who survived that - world population is down a lot as a result - can find themselves haunted by the ghosts who now walk the Earth. The world is now run by a church who saw things coming and who deal with the ghosts. And those who make false claims of haunting to get money out of it.

Main character Chess [short for Cesaria] works for the church dealing with the ghosts. But she has a drug habit and is deep with her supplier in terms of how much she owes.

So she has to do him a favour to clear the debt. Deal with a haunted airfield.

But that's only the start of her troubles, thanks to a rival gang and an even more deadly threat of the supernatural kind. Plus also her burgeoning attraction to a rather ruthless man.

It runs for 339 pages of rather short chapters. It contains a fair amount of strong language and a few adult situations. And it's a pretty interesting world in which the story is set. But whilst the plotting is capable and contains a few good twists and turns there's nothing really to make the main character, even with her dark and damaged past in the foster care system, really stand out or be desperately sympathetic.

As such whilst this is a capable piece of writing it didn't really stand out for me and rates being good enough rather than above average.

Probably more suited to ladies who enjoy this kind of thing rather than me. If you do like it, then the trilogy continues with Downside Ghosts (2) - Unholy Magic which is out soon.
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on 28 January 2014
I wasn't at all sure about this book with a drug addict heroine living in a Godless and harsh world where the dead have risen and the living suffer from their attacks.
Despite a horrible past, the government 'Church of Real Truth' saved Chess Putnam by seeing her magical potential and thus she became a church witch bearing tattoos of power and ghost hunting abilities beyond imagining.
I quickly got over the hefty usage of slang speech patterns evidenced throughout. So cleverly done, in fact, its usage enhanced rather than detracted from the flow.
The introduction of Terrible, Chess's drug dealer's right hand man, was a stroke of genius. I'm a little in love with that one! Chess is however, damaged, riddled with insecurity and her life is loveless. Having said that, she loves her job and holds the elders in high regard. She engages in one night stands but seeks no more than that- No commitment.
The story progresses well as Chess becomes embroiled in the investigation of dangerous black magic- (Enter seedy manipulating drug dealer). I wasn't entirely comfortable with Chess's predicament, and I think that my fear for her situation helped to make this a more compelling read.(Couldn't not put it down until finished.)
The graphic descriptions in this novel are amazing and lend credibility and authenticity to Stacia Kane's world of Unholy Ghosts.
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I wonder if the concept for this book came from a need to drop something different in the expansive depths of urban fantasy or whether the reader is being treated to a glimpse of Kanes subconscious darker side. Regardless of which and why this is an extraordinary example of its type of genre.
The main character is an anti heroine par excellence and like marmite, the reader will either love her despite her failings or hate her with the passion born of hatred.
Me, myself and I are on board the love boat.
I enjoyed the darkness of her character and the way she makes no excuse for being who she is. She lives as she feels, which is in the moment. However behind all that carelessness and silmultaneously free as a bird attitude hides the hurt and scared child, as often is the case with addicts. Hidden behind the addiction is the pain of past horrors and present indifference.
The world surrounding the characters is dystopian in its nature with strong elements of paranormal and occultism. The church leads and guides as a dictatorship with cult like presence. I found it extremely interesting how Kane took the outside population, who are living in ghetto like habitats, and has had them regress in their language skills. So rather than use the future as a scenario, in which we find the population more advanced, we in fact find them going backwards. This is demonstrated in the way they communicate.
I found the concept fascinating, daring and I look forward to reading more.
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VINE VOICEon 3 May 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you have anything against drug addiction then do not read this book. It will only annoy you as drugs, drug dealers and their enforcers are a constant theme here and they are not so much tolerated as they are promoted. Some of the downsides of drugs are explored but the consequences of taking `cepts' and `oozers' seem rather too mild. If such things don't bother you however, then this is a good read.

The style of writing is uncomplicated and reads almost like something aimed at older children or young adults rather than an older age group. There is some violence but it's by no means at the level of, say, Stephen King and while there is swearing it seemed proportionate and balanced. This book is quite sexy, not overtly erotic and the sexual encounters are entertaining without being too explicit. The stories varies but is nicely broken up into different chapters and carries along at a good pace, often ending a chapter on a cliff hanger so there is usually a compelling reason to keep on going. I really rather like the quotes from the literature of this world , that appear at the start of each chapter, at first they are a little confusing but as you read on they shed a little more light the `church' and the world they have created.

I found it difficult to place this novel and there is no clear location given; it reads like she is in a new capital, but other than being near the coast no country or region is given. This book is clearly written by an American as it talks about `checks' and being `asskissy' but there was something about it that reminded me of Britain, although I can't place what it is. Chess seems almost tied to her locality and this parochial aspect makes the book seem a little restricted, as if only the author had imagined only a fragment of the world. Perhaps the subsequent books fill out this universe, but I would have liked to have a little more here.

The story strikes me as somewhat fragmented as it takes a little while to settle down and tie up the different threads. I did not find the ending entirely satisfactory as things seemed to be wrapped up a little too easily; it's by no means a bad ending and as implied by this being the first of a series of books, the ending isn't so much a termination as a suggestion of things to come. Chess's future does sound interesting.

This is not a book I would normally expect to find myself reading; tattoo-covered-drug-addicted witches aren't my usual area of interest and anything set in a post-apocalyptic, neo-dystopian world usually puts me right off. Much to my surprise I
have enjoyed it and am considering buying the rest of the series.
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on 17 June 2012
Unholy Ghosts, the first book in Stacia Kane's popular Downside Ghosts series, will grab you by the throat and not let go until it's finished.

Chess is a heroine like no other I've come across. She's damaged after years of abusive, heavily addicted to various drugs and just trying to get through life with enough money to support her habit. She also incredibly brave, digging deep in real moments of panic to fight her way through. She finds herself caught up as a pawn in various different games yet never whines about how she ended up there. Having read a lot of urban fantasy you get used to the tough, leather clad P.I./ Agent, kicking arse as she goes along. Chess is something completely new and I found her wonderfully refreshing.

The world building was astonishing, a mixture of highly detailed magic, ghostly horror and gritty dystopia. The Church's hold on society, thinly veiled in a guise of salvation and protection, was incredibly sinister. The City itself, particularly the Downside area, became a character in its own right, Kane's writing making its sights, smells and residences jump off the page.

I'm not ashamed to admit there were times, reading this late at night, that I was genuinely scared. I don't tend to read a lot of horror books but some of the scenes in Unholy Ghosts had a certain heart-in-throat chill to them that I enjoyed immensely. The plot moves a breakneck speed with not single word wasted. Although I did have a suspicion who was behind the plot before Chess did I was still racing through the pages to see if I was right.

Terrible, like Chess, is also a character the like of which I've never seen before. There are no cookie cutter Alpha males here. That fact that Kane could write a character that is not only described as ugly but a cold hearted thug for hire and make him not just sexy but also heartbreakingly decent is a real testament to her skill. I have a feeling that when I move on to the next book I'm only going to fall more in love with Terrible.

This book took my breath away on more than one occasion. It's dark, it's gritty... It's just plain brilliant. I honestly can't recommend it highly enough, hands down one of the best urban fantasy books I have ever picked up.

Would recommend if you like: Devon Monk's Allie Brekstrom series, Rachel Vincent's Unbound series, Jenna Black's Morgan Kingsley series
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on 11 April 2011
I read a lot of fantasy, not much of it urban. This is the first of Stacia Kane's books I've read and, although not particularly a fan of the urban fantasy sub-genre, I am now firmly hooked on her writing.

Unholy Ghosts is richly imaginative with a cracking pace that left me breathless. The heroine, Chess, has the knack for self-sabotage typical of the emotionally damaged addict, and my heart ached for her as she made one bad decision after another. I couldn't help hoping that she would get her act together, which was one of the aspects of this book that kept me reading. Now and again she does manage to save a situation, but only just, and more by luck than judgement. Stacia Kane manages to make her main characters quite unlikeable and highly sympathetic at the same time, which is a clever balancing act. I fell in love with Terrible partway through the book and couldn't believe how stupid Chess was... only I could...

The compelling central characters and their relationships are well matched by the complexity and coherence of the world Stacia Kane has created. Overall, Unholy Ghosts reminds me of some of the work of Philip K Dick and William Gibson, addressing similar questions about the nature of society and the essence of humanity. Which is not to say that this is in any sense a heavy read. Some passages are quite scary, and at times I found myself reading through my fingers. But for me, neither the drugs nor the sex nor the horror are gratuitous, they all fit with the crowded gritty urban environment and its supernatural element.

I loved the characters' names. In fact I loved the whole thing. Not everyone will, but I did - so much so that I'm now going to download the next book.
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on 11 June 2016
Chess Putman is a witch. She works for the Church of Truth as a debunker. Chess however is a drug addict and owes moneyto Bump a dealer and hes come to collect.

My sister recommend this book to me so I borrowed it from the library. I couldn't get into it took it backm then ended up with a copy from my sister as a Christmas present. So ive tried it again.

Second time around and I persevered with it. I enjoyed it a little more than what I thought I would. I quite liked Chess, shes a likeable enough character. Along with her motley crew of fellow characters the story plodded on. I did feel the whys and why not was a bit feeble and this let the story down.

What I didn't like was some of the characters names. Theres a big drug lord snd hes called Bump and his henchman is called Terrible. Felt like they were out of the Mr Men books.

I plodded with this book but felt there wasnt enough in it for me to rush out and get the next books in the set.
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