Review: Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane ★★★★

Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book one in the Chess Putnam series
Publication Date: May 2010
ISBN: 978-0345515575
Page Count: 352
My Rating: ★★★★


THE DEPARTED HAVE ARRIVED. The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen, and the living are under attack. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased. Consequently, there are many false claims of hauntings from those hoping to profit. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully-tattooed witch, freewheeling Debunker, and ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for nailing human liars and banishing the wicked dead. But she’s keeping a dark secret from the Church: a little drug problem that’s landed her in hot and dangerous water. Chess owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump. And Bump wants immediate payback. All Chess has to do is dispatch a very nasty species of undead from an old airport. But the job involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and crossing swords with enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust for a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump’s ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it. Hell, yeah.


This is a great start to a series. It's full to bursting with fascinating characters and great world-building. I like this for all the reasons I usually don't like others. I'm often known to say I don't like my Urban Fantasy series to be too dark; this one is set in a very dark, seedy world full of the most pitiful, drug addicted and otherwise battered and tortured characters you could imagine. I also have been known to say that I need some kind of levity and humour to balance out the action and violence in my Urban Fantasy; this one has no humour to speak of, really, other than the odd light-hearted bit of dialogue. Frankly, the characters lives are too darn depressing and awful to find much to laugh about.

So why, do you ask, do I like it then? Simple. This series features some of the most interesting, complex and original characters I've ever encountered. They may be drug addicted with little or no sense of self-worth and make horrendous life choices, yet they somehow remain in possession of an iron strong will and an unshakable sense loyalty.

I liken it to car-crash T.V. only with a book. You don't really want to watch them make another awful decision, but you can't quite look away either. The characters just draw you in with their raw, unfiltered emotions and refuse to let you go.

I fell in love with one character in particular in this book. An Enforcer (read: hired thug) by the name of Terrible. His character, and my desire to now know absolutely everything about him, is what's going to keep me reading this series. I would still have enjoyed the plot anyway, but I have to be honest and confess that ghosts are my least favourite type of supernatural creature/entity to read about, so without this amazing character I might not have been quite so satisfied as I closed the book.

The speech and dialect took some getting used to as well. This is a common concern with this series from what I gather from other reviews. It's a bit of a love it or hate thing. But by the end of the book I totally got it, aye?

Let me give you a little example of what I mean. Here's a quote from Bump, Chess' drug dealer, who is one of the worst offenders:

"Ain't can believe we here," Bump drawled. "Thought we had us some fuckin' trust, yay? You an' Bump. Thought we had us some fuckin' understanding. Hurts Bump, this do. An' Terrible ... Dig me, Ladybird, think you putting the fuckin' hurt on he, hard. Why ain't you just give me the fuckin' tell, yay? An' end this, so's we can be fuckin' friends again. Ain't you like bein' Bump's friend?"

Now I know that probably looks like complete gobbledegook, but bear in mind that Chess, who is the main "voice" of the novels (even though it is written in third person, but I'll get to that in a minute), doesn't speak like this. She might say "aye" occasionally, but that's about the extent of it from her.

It's mainly the men in her life - Terrible, Lex, Bump, etc. The ones who reside in the heart of Downside - that speak this way. I got the impression that the vernacular is something that has evolved naturally over time since Haunting Week, 23 years ago, which is the point at which our world and Stacia Kane's world veer off from one another, and the setting for her alternate future society takes over.

Basically, 23 years ago a large percentage of the population perished when ghosts broke free of their spiritual bonds and killed them in their homes. After this catastrophe, the vastly reduced population that remained reformed, the government fell, religions were squashed, and people forgot how to speak normally. Tragic, really...

Our main character is Chess, or Cesaria, Putnam. A drug addict, as I mentioned before, but other than that she's a level-headed, logical and likeable girl. She just happens to have had one of the crappiest childhoods you could imagine, and has got herself hooked on pills to get her through the day.

One thing that did confound me is why this story was written in third person when it is solely from Chess' point of view throughout. I only expect to find third person perspectives when I'm reading a book with multiple narrators. Why then, was this written in third? It must just be Ms Kane's personal writing preference, I guess, but it really stood out to me. Every time it said "Chess thought", or "Chess knew" I wanted to grind my teeth thinking how much better it would have sounded with "I thought", "I knew." since Chess was the only one talking. Oh, well. Each to their own, I guess.

To sum up, I highly recommend this book. If you think the speech is going to drive you nuts, check out the audio version. The lady that reads it does a stellar job.

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