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Downside Ghosts #1

Unholy Ghosts

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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. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully tattooed witch and freewheeling ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for banishing the wicked dead. But Chess is keeping a dark secret: She owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump, who wants immediate payback in the form of a dangerous job that involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and 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.

339 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published May 25, 2010

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About the author

Stacia Kane

34 books2,537 followers
Stacia Kane is the author of the light-hearted romantic urban fantasy "Megan Chase" series starting with PERSONAL DEMONS.

She currently writes the gritty dystopian urban fantasy "Downside" series starring Chess Putnam and featuring ghosts, human sacrifice, drugs, witchcraft, punk rock, and a badass '69 Chevelle. She bleaches her hair and wears a lot of black.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,749 reviews
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,404 reviews11.7k followers
January 7, 2015
Updated 1/7/2015

Love how Chess/Terrible relationship is written. I might bump up this series into my faves. It surely stands the test of time.

As seen on The Readventurer

How do you decide which urban fantasy series you should read?

Let's be honest, there is like million and a half books in this genre, all with the same basic premise, assemblage of characters, mythology structure and story arcs. I, personally, do not even bother to read synopses of UF books any more, because, well, they are all the same anyway. Only some trusty reader-friend's recommendation will do the trick. And, apparently, mentioning some hottie can be enough to perk up my interest. In the case of Unholy Ghosts, Catie talked so poetically about this one Terrible, that I just had to check him out. ASAP, naturally.

So, Terrible. I am not terribly into Terrible yet, but, boy, do I see promise. You see, I do like when an author writes a man who is not particularly attractive, and then manages to make him sexy. If I strain my brain, I can think of only one guy in UF who is no Adonis, but whose personality and actions make him the hottest guy on the block. I kinda enjoy to be surprised and wooed like that. (Sadly, this other guy is a teenager, Derek in Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers trilogy). Like Catie said in her review, Terrible is not handsome, at least not in a traditional way and not to the main character at first, the dialect he talks in makes him sound a tad... dumb, and yet, and yet, Stacia Kane manages to slowly make him VERY appealing, by writing things like this:

A couple made out against the gritty stucco wall on the side of the club. Chess watched them for a second, embarrassed to do so but unable to turn away, something quiet and small twisting in her chest.

The girl was a little thing, platinum blond, in a miniskirt and a pair of platform heels that looked like they weighed more than her entire body. Her thin legs crossed at the ankle behind the guy’s waist, while her tiny, pale hands dug into his back. Chess couldn’t see her face; it was almost entirely hidden by the guy’s hands, cupping her cheeks like he thought the bones might break. Chess didn’t think she’d ever been touched like that. A pang of pure envy ran through her.

The girl caressed the back of his neck and lifted her hands to twine her fingers in his hair. His hips pressed forward, pinning her against the wall, and he dipped his head to kiss her throat. The light caught the prominent ridge of his brow and the crooked bump of his nose.

It was Terrible.

Heat rushed to her face. Yes, definitely Terrible. No wonder he’d blushed when she teased him about his sideburns. She’d never even thought of him as actually being interested in women. He seemed totally asexual to her, like instead of fucking he preferred beating people up. A silly assumption. He was a man, after all.

I know exactly what you are doing here, Ms. Kane, and it's working.

What did not work as well for me is Chess' characterization. Would it be too awful to say that I didn't feel like she was junky enough? Hear me out. Chess, the ghost banisher, is an addict, she takes pills, she snorts speed, always waiting for her next fix, etc, etc. But, reading Unholy Ghosts, I never felt that this addiction was a vital part of her, her driving force, rather, it was something that she did, that she could easily put away, something that did not affect her work or her mental abilities much. I did not feel like I was in a head of a serious addict. Maybe my impression has something to do with the fact that the book is written in 3rd person and therefore there is a bit of a distance between the reader and the narrator. Or maybe reading Trainspotting left me with a skewed view of what severe addiction is like for an addict. Trainspotting, I felt, put me at the center of an addict's mind, but Unholy Ghosts did not.

I will not be wasting time on summarizing the details of this story or its mythology. This post-ghostapocalyptic setting worked for me, so did the mystery and the characters. Whatever I say I liked about Unholy Ghosts will not work for everyone, like it happens with most genre fiction. I also think that the two main points of contention in this series will be the main character's addiction and the local dialect.

The book was a good fit for me though. I look forward to reading more about Chess and Terrible. Terrible has more of his 6 ft 4 in (everything in proportion) glory and prowess to demonstrate. I am along for that ride.
Profile Image for Kat Kennedy.
475 reviews16.3k followers
September 23, 2010
If you've ever been one of those people lucky enough to be gifted without any specific fondness for chocolate or ice cream or sweets then you'll know what it's like to have someone look at you, horrified, and exclaim, "How? Chocolate/ice cream/lollies are so good!"

I would like to start off by saying that I'm prefectly aware that they're apparently very good. I don't mind lollies - as long as they're gummy bears I'll even eat them! I'll have chocolate occassionally but I generally avoid ice cream. So you see, it's not that I've been stuck in a jungle in Borneo for the last 24 years and am simply ignorant of how good they are. I know. Family, friends, acquaintances, strangers, sales-people, the media and the world in general has been telling me how good they are for my entire life.

It's just not my bag, baby!

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My disinterest neither adds to their goodness nor subtracts from it. I promise. Except for Gummy Bears - they are the single most awesome force on the face of the planet. Just admit it already.

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The Gummy Bear Army will take care of you if you disagree!

So the thing about Unholy Ghosts wasn't that it wasn't pretty good. In fact, there are quite a few things that I will now praise the author for.

Terrible - one of the best male romantic characters created. Fantastic. The fact that she can make him so sexy yet ultimately describe him as ugly kind of does it for me.

The language - I loved the broken down English used in this story. it added a very realistic touch!

The Dystopian world - Creativity and the ability to see a different world are two things that I really enjoy about reading stories. It was intersting to read a story about a world built around maintaining the ghost threat.

The plot - well paced and interesting. I didn't catch myself getting bored at all.

Okay, not MUCH! I only had eight rebel gummy bears tortured while reading this book.

But still there were some set backs.

The writing was sometimes choppy, sloppy and stroppy. Sentences sometimes were awkwardly jarred together like this!

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The character of Chess kind of annoyed me too. Perhaps because... well... how do I put this delicately?

Okay. Well, my mummy says that everyone is born with different gifts. Some with kindness, others with empathy and others with a drive to succeed. And some people are gifted with the ability to be judgemental little bitches who get annoyed when people make stupid decisions.

I'll give you a moment to guess which one I have. Okay, I don't really care about drugs. They aren't my deal. I'd take gummy bears over speed any day, but it was more the cliched part of her character that annoyed me.

Foster child, abused and spent her life going from home to home. We've seen it over and over again in UF dames except Elena from Women of the Otherwold does it soooooooooooo much better.

The mystery is okay. Not fantabulous but not too, too easy to solve and the spooky atmosphere of the book definitely made it a better read for me as I went along.

So I won't put Chess up there with Elena, Cat, Kate, Merit or Mercy but it's not like this series is particularly bad either and if you're looking for a nice change from the devestatingly adonis-like men of the UF/PNR world then give this book a try.

If not, you're always welcome to join me with my gummy bears.

June 2, 2018
· A MacHalo Freaks buddy read! Yay and stuff! ·

DNF at 60%

I'm in a pretty foul mood these days so I'm afraid this is not going to go well. Actually I don't even feel like reviewing this, I've wasted enough time with this book as it is. BUT I need to get it all out of my system so here goes.

If you love this book you might want to either take a few steps back or not read this review at all. If you do read it, don't even think of giving me hell about it afterwards, I've had it with trolls.

What this book isn't:
✔ Original
✔ Weird
✔ Dark
✔ Creepy
✔ Gritty
✔ Horrific
✔ Gripping

I'm pretty sure the author wanted the book to be all these things but guess what? EPIC FAIL.

What this book is:
✔ Boring
✔ Boring
✔ Boring
✔ Boring
✔ Boring
✔ Boring
✔ Boring

No I didn't think the story had potential.
No I didn't think the world building was mind-blowingly creative.
No I didn't think the book was uber cool because drug use is a character in itself (someone please kill me).
No I didn't think the characters were either interesting or well-developed.
No I didn't think Chess was a badass (you're kidding right? Please tell me you're kidding).
No I didn't like Terrible the "bad boy with a heart" (can I scream here?).
No I didn't think the supposed "action" scenes were either exciting or well-written.

Yes I thought that the author was trying too hard to be original and failed miserably.
Yes I thought that this was one of the flattest, most unemotional, lacklustre stories I've ever read.
Yes I thought that the characters had zero depth and less personality than barnacles.
Yes I thought that Chess was the weakest, most pathetic heroine ever.
Yes I thought that Terrible was the most clichéd character ever. Then again I've probably seen too many noir movies from the 1940s.
Yes I thought that Terrible was the lamest character name ever.
Yes I thought that I would eventually OD from all the drugs Chess was doing.

Anything else? Let me think. Oh yes, I know. Please don't even think of selling me a UF series by telling me there will eventually be romance or a love story of sorts between some of the characters. This is not what I'm looking for when I read UF. If I want to read a freaking love story I'll get myself some PNR. Get it? Good.

One last piece of advice for Chess:

Are you still here? I have to say writing this was one of the most cathartic experiences ever and I feel much better now. Thanks for staying with me through it all.

Now time for me to go and read an actual book.

Profile Image for Emily May.
1,990 reviews298k followers
March 30, 2012

I don't seem capable of finding a healthy medium when it comes to urban fantasy books - they either do nothing for me, or I develop a slight addiction. I can feel my love for this series forming already, this book was just so gory, nasty, fun and very very readable. It's been a long while since I've finished a book in just one day but I've been unable to put Unholy Ghosts down.

Once more, I owe thanks to Tatiana for bringing this book to my attention, I've been struggling with the urban fantasy genre for a while now and, despite reading countless books about all kinds of supernatural creatures and mysteries, I've come away feeling disappointed and bored. I can't pinpoint exactly what it was that I loved about this book and that made it stand out from all the same old blandness I've come to expect, but I can tell you a few points that I'm sure contributed to winning me over, and hopefully this will help others decide whether the Downside Ghosts series is right for them.

Firstly, I liked that Chess was a faulty human being with problems - like a drug addiction - and regular fears. It's so hard to find that perfect balance: creating the kickass heroine we all want, but still allowing her to be human enough to relate to. I think Stacia Kane did it superbly. Chess is not yet a favourite heroine of mine but I have faith in the character and am anxious to hear more about her paranormal escapades.

And Terrible. I saw immediately why he would not appeal to everyone... his disjointed speech and his less than pretty appearance. And yet I think this is exactly why I loved him. I've read so many novels, so so many where the possible love interest is supposedly all kinds of hot - perfect body, perfect facial features, great hair, dazzling smile... just a red hot pile of shiny perfection. But perfection is just so... dull. I want me an interesting, complicated guy who holds my attention at the times he's wearing clothes, as well as the times he isn't. Plus, no Chess/Terrible sexy times in this book, but this is a positive because sexual tension really makes me want to read on. Hehe.

I am very excited about this series. If I were to say anything negative, I would just like Chess to get herself a decent girlfriend to balance out the testosterone overload in the novel. Other than that, a great start to a series that I hear continues to get better.
Profile Image for Jo ★The Book Sloth★.
485 reviews432 followers
February 14, 2015
4.5 Totally Surprised Stars

BR with my awesome MacHalo girls.

10 things I hate about Unholy Ghosts...

1) Lex. I don't like this guy. There is something really off about him. I don't trust him at all.
2) The drugs. Huge pet-pieve of mine. I think that doing drugs shows weakness which the heroine proved right since everyone was using her drug addiction to push her around.
3) The Church. They are fanatical and tyrannical.
4) The slang. Too much... Too freakin much.
5) The love triangle. No need for elaboration there. I hate love triangles and why that idiot(Chess) would ever choose Lex over Terrible is beyond me.
6) Chess. Because she is pathetic. I can't believe she actually crawled at Lexe's feet to get the pill.
7) Chess. Because she is a whiny mess whose only constant thought is her next high.
8) Chess. Because she was a coward. All she did was whine about how scared she was and get high to get through her day.
9) Chess. Because she was jumping to conclusions without any evidence and made a huge fuss based on nothing.
10) Chess. Because she was mean and hurt Terrible and she was too blind to even notice.

Things I loved about the book...

1) Terrible. I loved Terrible. He was like a vicious puppy, all snarly and bity but only because it had been hurt and kicked one too many times. I wanted to hug him and tell him everything would be all right.
2) The plot line. The plotline wasn't bad at all. I liked the twists and turns and I kept on guessing who the bad guy would be.(My bets were on lex but that didn't work out...)
3) ?
4) ?
5) ?
6) ?
7) ?
8) ?
9) ?
10) ? I really have no idea why I liked this book so much. It pressed soooo many of my negative buttons that I should have DNFed it, but I just couldn't put it down. Despite the fact that I like none of the characters, except Terrible, despite the fact that I found the heroine as annoying as they come, despite my annoyance with the slang and the drugs, I freakin' loved this book. Maybe Stacia Kane has done magic to it??

Profile Image for Erica Ravenclaw.
340 reviews97 followers
February 6, 2015

Feb 2015 Reread with MacHalo Girls: ABSOLUTELY FUCKING LOVED IT. Everything I said below still stands. I think I loved it more the second time around because perspective.

No Spoilers! Definitely colorful language abound!


I didn't read the reviews on this until I finished, and truthfully it's really a difficult book to review. It's not what you think it's going to be. It's not what you want it to be. It's not familiar. It's not unfamiliar. So what is it then? It's fucking tragic. This world is a place with no meaning. Filled with a bunch of people with no hope. The class devision is extremely prevalent, specifically noted in the dialect of the lower class. It's a bit startling at first, but truthfully it's something you adjust to and eventually see the fineness the author applied to it. It speaks of an uneducated and hardened group of people who have long been forgotten by a system that no longer seems to exist. There is no god, no light, no better place, no peace. You simply die, and your ghost is ushered to the underground where once a year you might be let out, for all of eternity, consumed by a murderous rage, you aren't even yourself. Let that sink in for a moment, shall we? You get this brief time of being alive where the quality of your life is nothing more than a roll of the dice. You are born with magic? Great. You are born with wealthy parents? Good. You are born poor? Well, shit. You can't change anything, you just have to manage to make it through, then for what exactly? AN ETERNITY OF NOTHING BUT RAGE IN THE CITY UNDERGROUND!


You see, anything to do with ghosts typically freaks me the feck out and so that means I'm in equal measure terrified and fascinated. Eventually my TBR list lacked the ability to hold my attention and I went out seeking something I couldn't articulate. Thankfully I've met some book soul sisters here on GR and was reminded yet again by Jenny of this series. Something sparked and I put all my other reads on hold to start this.
I made a note at 20% through to myself:
Even if I were to stop right now, even if that was possible to let these characters go, I would always remember Chess. She is a character that will stay with me forever.

She is mosaic of painful memories, self-medicating tendencies and a healthy dose of self loathing. She is powerful, deeply sensitive, and brimming with hope despite herself. She expects the worst in others but somehow finds herself disappointed when they let her down. She is acutely aware of herself yet slathered in denial. She is a junkie with morals. She is a powerful witch and debunker but afraid of ghosts. She is gritty, raw and articulate. She is a badass and a pussy. She is complex, she is herself, she is MY NEW FAVORITE CHARACTER.

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Terrible is equally complex and manages to ooze a comfort in his own skin typically only seen in those who have been blessed with the pleasure of growing old. As all of the characters in this series his many layers are revealed in a deliciously slow manner, and almost in spite of himself. Terrible doesn't want you to get to know him but every now and again he slips and you see how clever, observant and protective he is. Not only does Terrible accept himself without hesitation despite being who he is and what he does, he also offers the same acceptance to all those around him. He truly see's people for who they are without any preconceived idea's of what they should do or be or say. This is especially visible in the way his friendship with Chess builds over the series.

Lex is the obvious charmer but carries it as his armor. You never once assume he will be anything other than what he is. I accept him, he's interesting and offers what I imagine will be a tough thing to accept in the plot. The relationship that develops with Chess is one she may have a very hard time seeing for what it really is.

Really, all of these characters are easy to judge and disconnect from. Some are junkies, some are pushers, some are enforcers and murderers, some abusive to themselves and to others. They will reflect all the ugly humanity has to offer and it's up to the reader to look deeper and see all aspects of their story.


N-O-T-H-I-N-G about this book is something you've read before. The drug use is intense and is a character of it's own. It's the force that drives everything Chess does, from sleeping, to working, to relaxing, to functioning on a basic level. It has a sort of love triangle but so far from the YA garbage you've read that you won't even care. These ghosts are murderous and dangerous. This world is bizarre and confusing. THIS FUCKING PLOT IS AMAZEBALLS AND CREEPS UP ON YOU.

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Profile Image for Regina.
625 reviews394 followers
August 2, 2010
4-4.5 stars. Oh My Goodness! This book blew me away. First, I have to say I really steer clear of movies and books that paint drug use as fun (not talking about pot/marijuana). For some reason it just really turns my stomach. I don't judge the users morally but I just can't watch the downward spiral, the descent. So I really was reluctant to pick up this book. But I am so glad that I did. The lead character Cesaria a/k/a "Chess" is a difficult person to focus on for over 300 pages. But Stacia Kane makes the experience enthralling. I love dark urban fantasy and in this book an alternate reality is created, one where something happened in 1997 throughout the world, that forever changed the course of the world. That time is called, "BT" -- Before Truth. Christianity is gone, religious faith is gone. There is supposedly no belief in a higher power, only a belief in magic. The new "Church" controls the world and protects everyone from ghosts who seek to kill people. Kane makes references to bands, punk culture and for me it was very comforting, homey. She somehow creates this very different world, with a community that has an odd style of speaking english, but yet it is still familiar. There are no clear heroes or heroines in this book. But the reader definitely roots for Chess -- despite her repeated bad choices.

The main male character, "Terrible", is someone who is helping her in this adventure, he is physically unappealing, a violent man -- but somehow Kane creates a deep three dimensional character out of this template and he is very sympathetic.

There are some awkward and emotionally uncomfortable scenes between Chess and Terrible, Kane makes the reader feel them. I could feel Chess' embarrassment and I so felt bad for Terrible. Wonderful first book in a very dark urban fantasy. I cannot wait to read #2!
Profile Image for AH.
2,005 reviews373 followers
July 23, 2011

I never expected to like this book.

I had read all sorts of reviews and most of them were fairly positive but to read a story about a heroine with a drug addiction problem (no pun intended) – I wasn’t sure if this book would be for me.

Unholy Ghosts is a dark, dirty, gritty, read. The world building is imaginative. Set in a world where ghosts need to be controlled by debunkers, drug lords roam freely, and magic exists, Unholy Ghosts is a compelling read.

The main character Chess (Cesaria) Putman is a debunker for the church. In this world, the church is akin to the government. Chess is a kind of a witch. She wears special magical tattoos and carries all sorts of magical paraphernalia.

Chess is very good at her job. Chess is also a drug addict, high as a kite most of the time. I found that Chess’ obsession with drugs was a little disconcerting for me. Sure, she functions well, but how effective can she be when she owes the local drug lord a lot of money. Her addictions make her a pawn of anyone that can feed her addiction. She feels no remorse; she makes no attempt to reduce her usage or detoxify. Her view of the world through the drug induced haze is very egocentric.

The drug usage acts as an entry ticket to the underworld of her city. She gains access to places that would not be open to her otherwise.

I loved the characters in this book. They were well fleshed out, with a lot of depth. I loved Terrible – an enforcer with a sense of honor.

The action scenes were spectacular. I sat at the edge of my seat and experienced the darkness, the fear, and the panic of the main character. The scene at the airport was absolutely breathtaking and scary at the same time.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,604 reviews2,309 followers
August 5, 2019
Unholy Ghosts
Downside Ghosts, Book 1
By: Stacia Kane
Narrated by: Bahni Turpin
This is an amazing book! A strange future where the government has collapsed, ghosts have risen, the Church of Real Truth is a church that preaches that there's no gods! Our gal of the story works for them. She is a witch. That makes her feared by most. Her many tattoos give her away. She has a secret too, she's a drug addict. The church doesn't know.
She is wanted by both drug lords, she owes one a lot of money. She hears of a blood sacrifice, human, it will bring about more than she can handle. She has to try to stop it. She has one of the tough drug Lord's enforcer with her to keep an eye on her.
This book is fast paced, gritty, vivid details, it's unpredictable, wild, characters are tough and hardened, and the world building is superb.
The narration is excellent! Just right for this book!
Profile Image for Felicia.
Author 47 books128k followers
December 28, 2010
GUYS...I dunno. I liked this book despite myself. It's super gritty, has an interesting worldbuilding, and I gave it 4 stars just for avoiding a lot of cliches I'm really tired of lately. But I gotta say, I am really on the fence about the lead character.

Basically she is a drug addict, and all the trouble in the book stems from that fact. I think it's REALLY cool and bold choice to have a character like this, (and have two kinda low-class, nebulously shaded love interests), and I enjoyed this because it wasn't cliched like most. My problem is that if you have a character who's obviously making bad choices, like be a drug addict, then you'd want SOMEONE in her life to be like, "Hey, you shouldn't be a drug addict", and maybe have a few moments where the character is like, "Hmm, maybe I should stop this drug thing." I mean, that would be more tense, but basically she unrepentantly pops pills the whole book, and has no one in her life telling her it's not cool. Now, i THINK that the overall arc of the whole SERIES might be aiming to clean her up, but for a novel, I really felt like she needed some growth in this area, if this is the major conflict.

THAT SAID, I really enjoyed this book. I also think guys would enjoy it as well, it's not so dominated by romance to make it strictly lady-appealing. I thought the Church and the world history was really fascinating too, so basically I'm reading the next book now, but it's hard to love this main character, NOT because of the drug addiction, but because of her repentance about it. We'll see where it goes!
Profile Image for Heather K (dentist in my spare time).
3,882 reviews5,800 followers
September 1, 2016

A good narrator can always make or break a book for me. In this case, I think my eventual affection for this story was due in a large part to Bahni Turpin, who managed to flawlessly execute both the male and female voices. She made these characters come alive, and I went from not feeling the book to really loving it. This book has some difficult speech patterns in it, and I think hearing a narrator read it aloud made it feel urban and authentic.

I tend to like my urban fantasy books to be just that: Urban fantasy. I like the focus to be on the plot and the action with any romance playing a small role. This book delivered on that in spades. It was dark, scary at times, and with some real gritty action. I think the world-building was great. I totally grasped the concept of the Church of Truth and the role of the debunkers. Stacia Kane did a great job in that department.

My real issue with this book is with Chess, the main character. I found her to be extremely difficult to like. I never thought myself to be prudish about drugs, but I didn't like her junkie persona and her cavalier treatment of those around her. I had a hard time relating to her and it took until around the 60% mark for me to warm to Chess.

I loved all of the secondary characters, especially Terrible. It was a breath of fresh air to read about a possible love interest who is not conventionally attractive. He was interesting and unexpected. Also, Bahni Turpin managed to make his voice freaking sexy.

All in all, I'm determined to read this series through, but only in the audible version. I loved the listening experience and am excited to hear what happens next to my ambivalent junkie.
Profile Image for Maya.
858 reviews442 followers
September 22, 2017
I was really looking forward to liking this book but I have a huge trigger (or two) and that is drug abuse. The heroine is what seems always getting high and is also indebted to her dealer who is also a pimp. I really disliked that, so I sadly had to drop the story. Also, what's with all the Church thing. It's like the whole world is enslaved by it and it's, at least to me, not a normal church but more of a sect that rulls the world. The whole plot thus just wasn't for me. If you can overlook all that, then go for it. Maybe you'll enjoy the story more than me. :)
Profile Image for Tom.
307 reviews68 followers
May 24, 2012
I’m going 4.5 and if I had to pay for stars it would probably be 4 but this book was just perfect timing for me and the ending put it over the top. The only thing stopping me from a straight 5 is that the character and world development really took a long time.

The writing was incredible to me. It is the kind of stuff I look for in a book. I'm not talking about the unique language either(I could have done with or without it) although the language really spoke to how true she was to the world she built. Of course the people scraping by aren’t going to speak the language properly. There is nothing sugar coated in this book. The actions of the people are as dark as the world that was created for them. As dark and nasty as everything was it all felt like it belonged there.

Chess is a seriously drug addicted Debunker (a kind of witch) for the Church who’s job it is to look into claims of people having ghosts. She gathers evidence to prove them wrong or she has to banish the ghosts back to the “City” if they turn out to be real. Of course her life would be much easier if she were just dealing with liars but her life becomes complicated when she has to deal with some serious Ghosts. If that weren’t enough her drug addiction has her juggling a lot of other balls in the air dealing with her drug dealers and has her paired with Terrible an unlikely ally who is her drug dealers/enforcer.

Chess's sarcasm works so well with her character. Where many characters lately have been characters that have things going for them and they are all sarcastic. With Chess's character you can really
feel the anger and it really belongs in her character.

“If Mrs. Morton would stop verbally jacking off her husband and son,this would all be done so much more quickly”

It is exactly the kind of thing some struggling addict might say to herself when dealing with a rich snob in her suburban neighborhood.

The descriptions of the rooms, and neighborhoods and even the people were so detailed it really drew a picture of where she was but not so much that it was rambling. I was so into her character I was pretty anxious most of the time while reading this book. When exploring Downside I felt strung out from Chess's lack of sleep, felt like I needed a shower after exploring tunnels and wanted to light a scented candle after exploring some of the places she went. It was meant to be dark and there is no warm and fuzzy going on here.

Bottom line Chess is a complicated character. I don't even know what I feel for her. Terrible was awesome and I'm looking forward to these two interacting in the future. ( I hope. ) Throwing that 5th star at it was tough because the meat of the story doesn't really get good till almost 70% of the book. I knew towards the end it was going to be a 4.5 book and I didn't know which way I was going to go. I actually enjoyed the descriptive ride of Downside and the end of the book was the tipping point for me. To be so anxious through the whole book and then make me physically laugh at the end ( and I'm smiling while writing this) was so unexpected it still surprises me. At no point did I expect to walk away from this book with a smile on my face from laughing. (satisfied yeah laughing no)

I will definitely be moving on with the series.
February 8, 2013
This book benefits from a compelling story, as well as a unique and fascinating mythology...it's just too bad that the Unholy Ghosts that haunt the city of Downside are far more interesting than the people who are trying to stop them!

Chess Putnam is an ordained Debunker for the all-powerful Church of Real Truth. On a good day, she receives a generous bonus for proving someone is faking a haunting in order to extort money from the Church. On a bad day, the haunting turns out to be real, and Chess is charged with exorcising the ghost. Now Chess is facing her worst day ever. Her secret drug habit has gotten so out of control, she now owes $15,000 to a ruthless supplier. The only way out of her debt is to clean up a haunted airport for her dealer...which would land her in trouble with yet another dangerous drug lord. Add to that the supernatural entity that is stalking her at every turn...something more powerful than anything she has ever encountered. If Chess isn't careful, she just may wind up being the next ghost to haunt Downside...

For me, the two most important elements of any book are the story and the characters, and the story within Unholy Ghosts deserves five stars easily! I absolutely loved the rich history of Downside and the Church of Real Truth. In this alternate history, everyone became disillusioned with all forms of government and religion after they were unable to prevent a ghostly invasion from wiping out one-third of the world's population. Only the Church of Real Truth was able to vanquish the evil ghosts, and as a result, the Church is now firmly in control. This is already an intriguing concept, and Stacia Kane capitalizes on it by throwing in so many extra details. I loved how every chapter started with a quote from the Church of Truth's various propaganda. I was fascinated by some of the more bizarre elements of the Church, like how the elders all dressed like modern-day pilgrims.

In addition to an enthralling backstory, Chess Putnam's quest to learn who has been practicing forbidden black magic rituals is exciting as well. The story moves at a very fast pace, and while the book may be found on the fantasy shelves, Stacia Kane proves she can stand toe to toe with just about any horror writer as well. The supernatural elements in this book are nothing short of thrilling, where every type of ghost has their own nuances, and Kane expertly blends traditional ghost lore with her own unique ideas. I would love to go into more detail about some of the more original ideas that blew me away, but these things are better left to the imagination, and Kane's imagination is much more fun to experience firsthand!

So...does it seem strange that I'm lavishing so much praise on a book when I only gave it three stars? Well, now we come to the other all-important element, and while Kane succeeds brilliantly in giving us a compelling story, she fails miserably in making the characters compelling as well. It's no exaggeration when I say I pretty much hated every single main character in the book! Granted, some characters were supposed to be annoying, like Chess's creepy drug-dealer Bump and her whiny fellow Debunker Doyle. But even the characters we were supposed to be rooting for are unpleasant to read about, especially Chess herself! In truth, I was intrigued when I first heard that the lead character was a drug addict, as it was a rather untraditional approach, but the biggest problem with Chess is that her vices are used as a substitute for any type of depth. She doesn't display much compassion, personality, or wit, just about anything Chess says or does comes back to drugs somehow! It's like the little kid who discovers the F-word for the first time and thinks all he has to do is keep saying it to make people laugh...when the author feels the need to reference Chess's drug habit on just about every page, it loses it's shock value and just becomes dull and repetitive after a while.

There was another reason Chess didn't work for me, and that's because she doesn't really do a whole lot in the book. I like my urban-fantasy heroines to be strong, formidable and charismatic. Unfortunately, Chess often feels like a supporting player in her own book! She very rarely solves anything herself, instead her answer to everything is either to pop a pill or let some man (usually Bump's brutal enforcer Trouble) come to her rescue. Silly me, when I heard the book starred a ghost hunter with magical abilities, I just assumed she would be a force to be reckoned with, but Chess only has two moments in the entire book where she seems capable of handling something herself, and she manages to botch even one of those up! Honestly, Chess is such a cliched damsel-in-distress at times, I half-expected to see Snidely Whiplash tying her to train tracks at some point!

So, Unholy Ghosts features a story worth reading, but no one worth reading about. Still, Stacia Kane did impress me with her brilliant imagination and her ability to write spine-tingling horror, so I would still be willing to give the Downside Ghosts series another chance.

Profile Image for Penny.
215 reviews1,367 followers
December 1, 2011
I'm going to start this review off on a tangent--when do I not? As far as I'm concerned 2011 has been the Year of Meh. Television has been practically unwatchable. Movies released this year: heinous. The books were, at best, mediocre. Admittedly, there were a few notable exceptions but, for the most part, I'm disappointed.

Over the past six months I've grown weary; struggled to finish most of what I've started, and, by the way, failing more often then not--you should see my pile of abandoned books. Because of this I've been feeling the need to take a step back, maybe not read so much. Maybe spend my money more wisely--it is ridiculous how much I spend on books and audiobooks. You know, take a break.

2011 killed my love of books (and movies and television).

That said, over the past couple of days I've fallen in love with books (and reading) all over again. I'm in love. Love I tell ya. Can't-get-enough-make-everyone-sick-can't-eat-or-sleep-head-over-heels in love. Me and reading? It's like we're on a second honeymoon. I have Stacia Kane and her Downside Ghost series to thank because of it.

I know, I know--none of the books in the Downside Ghost series were published this year. It doesn't matter. What does matter is I love reading. Again.

Funny thing, it's not like Downside Ghosts is The Best Series, Ever. And it has to be said: it's definitely not for everyone. However, as far as I'm concerned, it is compelling and addictive. It's good.

So. Unholy Ghosts. Where to start? Twenty-five year old Cesaria "Chess" Putnum is a hot mess, and not in that chick-flick cliche can't-get-my-life-together-because-I'm-so-adorably-clumsy-and-I-wear-glasses-that-make-me-look-unfortunate-until-I-finally-remove-them-during-the-makeover-montage-and-that's-when-everyone-discovers-I'm-super-hot sort of way. I mean the sort of hot mess that's boozy and pops pills all the live-long day.

I'm not going to lie to you. I avoided this series for that exact reason. Boozy pill-poppers just aren't my thing, or so I thought.

Then, other day, I was looking through my Kindle bookshelf and I noticed that I had the sample of Unholy Ghosts--for the life of me, I can't remember when I downloaded it. Curious, figuring I had nothing to lose, I decided to give it a chance before I went ahead and removed it. Imagine my surprise when I realized I couldn't go the rest of my life without reading more. So I purchased it (FYI, the Kindle edition of Unholy Ghosts is just 99 cents).

The thing I like about Chess is, well, I pretty much like everything. Honestly, I don't even mind that she's a drug addict. Of course, most of her problems wouldn't happen if she wasn't addicted to pills, but if that were the case Unholy Ghosts wouldn't be so good.

One of my favorite aspects of Chess's life her employment. She works for the Church of Real Truth as a Debunker, a person who goes around trying to debunk claims of hauntings. If she's able to then she gets a bonus and if she isn't, if the haunting is authentic, the homeowner is compensated by the church and the debunker will rid the home of the ghost.

Sidenote: Did I mention this is a dystopian urban fantasy? Because it is. Basically way back in the year 1997 ghosts escaped wherever it is ghosts go (or actually The City, as it's called in this series) and got all murdery, killing one-third of the world's population. At the time The Church of Truth was just a small organization but they succeeded in capturing all the ghosts. 25 years later The Church of Truth is the only religion. They pretty much run the government too. Worldwide.

The church has vowed to keep people safe from ghosts, which is why homeowners are compensated if their haunting is real. /sidenote

Chess is good at being a Debunker and it's something she's proud of. She also loves the Church of Truth, despite the fact that it reigns supreme. I can't fault her for it because everything else in her life is crap--growing up being passed from abusive foster home to abusive foster home will mess you up, you know? And anyway the Church is the only place she's ever felt safe, the only thing that's ever given her life value.

Anyway, things get really interesting when Chess's drug dealer blackmails her into working for him. <--and I'm stopping right there because I don't want to ruin it for you. Plus, this review is entirely too long.

This isn't my favorite book in the series, there are a few things that didn't exactly work for me, but I still like it. (Just so you know Unholy Magic, the second book in the Downside Ghost series is...um...intense. I'll be reviewing it soon). Three stars.

P.S. This review is also posted at my blog.
Profile Image for Namera [The Literary Invertebrate].
1,215 reviews3,074 followers
February 7, 2022
This series has been on my radar for a LONG time, I just somehow never got around to it. It's from the early 2010s, the golden age of urban fantasy - the years that also gave us the Night Huntress series, the Fever series, etc.

Unholy Ghosts actually feels much grittier than those, and it's all down to our heroine. 24-year-old Cesaria 'Chess' Putnam is a drug addict who spends most of her time in a permanent high. That doesn't stop her from being great at her job. She's a Debunker, a witch who works for the Church; her job is to investigate reports of hauntings from citizens and Banish the ghosts if necessary.

The world Kane has created here is super interesting. Essentially, back in 1997, a bunch of ghosts broke free from the City of the Dead and wiped out 2/3rds of the world's population in a frenzy known as Haunted Week. The only institution able to stop the rampaging ghosts was the Church - a purely secular organisation which acted ruthlessly to ensure there would be no repeats. Now all religions are banned, there is no government but the Church, and everyone knows the truth: ghosts are real, they're murderous, and only the Church can protect you.

Since Chess was tested at age 15 and found to have magical ability, she was taken away from her string of abusive foster parents and reared by the Church instead. Now she lives in Downside, a seedy slum which has the advantage of being controlled by her drug dealer Bump. Unfortunately, he has a lot of control over her. When he pulls her in one day and orders her to go investigate some hauntings at an abandoned airport, she has no choice but to comply. Accompanying her is Bump's top enforcer Terrible, a huge, ugly 28-year-old who strikes terror into the hearts of every Downside citizen.

Chess and Terrible are both such great characters. Both are incredibly morally ambiguous; she's a liar and an addict, while he's brutal and violent. Yet we also see how he's incredibly sweet to Chess. This is definitely one of the most interesting pairings I've ever read, and I'm glad their dynamic is deepened a lot more in subsequent books.

The worldbuilding is AWESOME. It's sharp, and unique. The book opens with a scene where Chess is almost killed by a ghost and never lets up steam, action-wise. The plot can get a bit repetitive, but that's more an issue in later books than this one.

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Profile Image for Brenna.
577 reviews449 followers
November 20, 2013
4.5 stars. Great start to a series I know I am going to love!

Unholy Ghosts had a little bit of everything that I love in a good book. The writing was great, the mood was dark and intriguing, the characters were flawed, lovable, and complex. There’s action, suspense, romance, some steam, and a fabulously built world.

It is told by Chess, our heroine, in third person POV. She is a Debunker for the Church. The Church isn’t religious in this world; it’s like their form of government that is ruled through magic, Truth, and Fact. They took over after Haunted Week (which happened twenty something years prior)- the week when all ghosts surfaced and were actively attacking humans. So, Chess’s job as a Debunker is to investigate claims made by people about hauntings.
Before Haunted Week—before the Church showed the world what Truth was—they’d been a tiny group, devoted to the theory and study of magic. Now they ran the world. And she was part of it. It was the one thing in her life of which she was proud.

Chess is also a junkie. I knew this prior to starting this book and I have to say, it only made me want to read it more. Her addiction has put her in a tough spot. She owes her dealer, Bump A LOT of money. To settle her debt, he asks her to use her powers as a witch to do him a favor. This leads to her working closely with Bump’s right hand man, Terrible. As the story progresses, more characters enter the mix. Chess has to balance her job with the Church, paying Bump back, a rival gang member, Lex, offering her another out, and a potential conspiracy.

This book is pretty dark and it’s done so well. It’s set in Downside, which is a very rundown area, pretty much just a ghetto. There’s poverty, drugs, prostitution, you name it. The descriptive writing really allows you to imagine exactly what this area is like and feel the underlying malevolence. The characters of this area also have a certain dialect. I think it’s called “Bump speak?” but I think it should be called “Down speak.” It’s really hard to explain, but it’s very slang based and pretty much every grammar rule in English is thrown out the window. Lots of ayes, nays, ain’ts, missing words, and my favorite, “dig?” While it took some getting used to, I found it fascinating and thought it only helped me to picture this world and get into the setting more. Chess does not speak this way though; it’s mostly the men – Bump, Terrible, Lex.

What I loved most about this book was just the potential. I wasn’t immediately sucked in, but the latter half of the book really got my blood pumping. The whole book is actually quite intense because there is this dark, dangerous feel to everything. So many smaller things happen along the way then BOOM this huge LONG finale of sorts. And I think it has this HUGE potential to completely steal my heart and that’s because of Terrible.

This guy is no average hero. He’s a bad guy. He’s supposedly ugly. He’s the most feared guy in downside, doing all Bump’s dirty work. Killing, beating, doing whatever is needed.
Terrible was coming, his gait easy and steady, but the way his gaze fixed on and the tire iron dangling loosely from his hand were more eloquent than anything else could have been.

Then he starts working with Chess and has to help her with her favor for Bump. The whole way through he is always there for her and protecting her. There is so much more to him, he’s not this big oaf that he appears to be and I love that he is so damaged and different from the perfect, model like guys in a lot of books. The fact that he’s described as ugly at times, and I still find myself falling for him and thinking he’s sexy is a testament to how awesome this guy is. The romance is very understated, it’s sexual tension at its finest. There are multiple “love interests” I guess you would call them, but they are all interesting in their own ways – good/bad qualities and beautifully flawed. You do even get a bit of sexy time.
“Terrible,” she managed. “You know how to use this thing?”
He pulled away to meet her gaze, and for a minute he was transformed. Still the same features, the lumpy nose and the jutting brow and the hard, dark eyes, but not ugly anymore. Full of character. Full of strength. She looked at his face but she didn’t see it, not the way she had before. The smile spreading across his features was intimate, sexy. The darkness of his eyes concealed so much more than she’d ever imagined.
“Oh, aye,” he said. “You gonna let me show you?”

I loved Chess as a character too, she’s a very unconventional heroine. I have such a soft spot for those; it just makes me love her more. She’s fucked up, but she knows it. She’s still a good person and she’s strong. Her rough past has made it so she’s never felt safe, she’s a bit paranoid but she’s kind of had to be.
If her life had taught her anything, it was that you never really knew what people had going on beneath the surface. People were shit. The only difference between them and animals was people felt the need to hide it.

I’m really looking forward to learning more about her and seeing her relationships grow. By only gripe is that it’s all told from Chess’s POV, but in third person. I wish this had been in first person, I think I would have connected even more to her. I did love her sarcastic, snarky attitude and the dashes of humor in this though. Can’t wait to dive into the next one! ♥

Things weren’t so terrible, after all. She was alive. Alive, and just high enough to feel good about it.

See this review & others at No BS Book Reviews.
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Profile Image for Jen Davis.
Author 7 books705 followers
January 19, 2012
As I try to put my thoughts together about this book, I find myself at a little bit of a loss. It's... strange and disturbing at times. But it's also kind of compelling.

The story takes place in an alternate universe where the existence of magic and ghosts are known fact. Society is run by the church. Not any church of God, but one that rejects faith altogether. Its members keep a tight leash on the ghost world. Chess works for the Church as a "debunker." Essentially, she investigates claims of hauntings and gets rid of the ghosts if they are the real deal. She is also a drug addict with no family and no friends.

The world Chess lives in is a dark one. Her drug problem is substantial and ever-present. In fact, she owes her dealer some money. But he agrees to cancel her debt if she performs an exorcism for him. And he assigns his enforcer, Terrible, to help her on the job. The story gets more complicated as a scary entity begins stalking Chess, and she must figure out what it is, who sent it, and how to get rid of it.

There is alot going on in the story. Too much try to get into here. But it was hard to connect with Chess at first. After all, she is an addict. And she has no real loyalty to speak of --except maybe to the church. She's good at her job, but largely cut off from her own humanity. Terrible, on the other hand, is very easy to sympathize with. He is introduced as he is seen through Chess' eyes, but his true self shines through. He is the strong arm of a drug dealer, but he reads history books; he watches out for the kids on the streets; and he is clearly, completely crazy about Chess.

The language in the book takes some getting used to. Most of the characters speak in a street slang that is hard to characterize. And the world is gritty and dark and violent. But there is something intangible that draws me to in, nonetheless. I could say it's because it's unique and fresh. Or that it's because it's unpredictable. Or maybe it's just Terrible. I don't know. I do know that I plan to read the next book, like, right now. --And that Lex has got to go.

Very hard to rate. 4 stars?
Profile Image for Laurie Garrison .
714 reviews172 followers
June 7, 2010

For a Urban Fantasy this book was OK for me. The New world is ruled by a church called Church of Real Truth, Stacia explains the world really good and it doesn’t take up the whole storyline. There is lots of hard core action and one somewhat hot scene between Chess and Lex.

Chess has to have her drugs, if not she ends up with the itch. Bump is her supplier. She is in head over heals in debt with him. Bump gives her a ghost hunting job to help pay for what she owes him. From what I read I didn’t get the whole thing that she was so attraction to Bump’s enforcer there was a little tension there but that’s all I found. But when Lex kidnaps her, so he can get her to do something for him, then you’ll see the attraction kick in.

I had a few problems with this book. One is Chess is to much a pill popper for my taste. The other is the dialogue with the drug lords and their people. Here is a few lines “Ain’t you got no people be worried?” or this passage “Bump got the pull. Bump already got that place wide up, see, wide up. But Bump gotta problem. Bump planes-planes carrying them sweet pills you ladybirds like bumps plains crash. Something attacking the planes, dig? Make the go all silent.” Turns they off. This is though the whole book so make sure you can stand this kind of talk between the characters. Even if they talk like this, I found it annoying to read.
Profile Image for SubterraneanCatalyst.
127 reviews48 followers
February 2, 2012
I hate to do this but I'm not skilled enough yet to write a review that doesn't have mild spoilers, or even unforgivable spoilers, so forgive me my crutch:


On to business::

...Chessie is (in my mind) a luscious tattooed Churchwitch who is trying to skate through life. I don't think she wants to be noticed. She just wants to blend in and smooth over the edges of her pain with her next fix. I would have posted a bitchin' image of her here somewhere, but lo and behold, if you do google searches of "cute brunette with tattoos" you are in man's land and it's quite pornographic.

The world of Unholy Ghosts is post apocalyptic and dystopian. Normally this would make me pass on reading a book but even though it's ultra dark and gray I found it worth it and it wasn't mind numbingly dreary. Ghosts with very real power have risen in the world and the churches of old have been abandoned for the Church of Truth. Magic is the only thing that can counter the ghost menace.

I've heard grumbles and rumors of people disliking that Chess takes drugs and perhaps that the ramifications of her drug usage aren't realistic enough given the work she has to pursue, but I disagree completely. I feel Kane gives a satisfying personal history for Chess and her drugs. Does anyone really need a reason to do drugs? Hell, the world she lives in is reason enough. I'd like to point out though that the book indicates (and I wish I had highlighted some quotes but I forgot to) that Chess grew up being beaten, molested and raped in her mother's household. Given this kind of childhood Chess's decisions and behavior toward her relationships is very realistic and consistent. The main tension regarding her drug usage is that she is in a position of some authority being a Churchwitch Debunker and as such has protocol to follow. Failing to adhere to the parameters of her position within the Church of Truth has dire if not deadly consequences.

Chess embarks on a quest because her friendly neighborhood drug provider, Bump, wants to use her services to banish ghosts at a property that will boost his business. So in comes, Terrible, [Thank you Jan for inspiring my choice of imagery for Terrible, this image is a drawing of Marv from Sin City, and other than hairstyle is how I imagine Terrible] the henchman Bump assigns to liaise with Chess during this extra curricular and highly illegal project. Problems arise, naturally, as Chess tries to balance her duties and the illicit project. I'm not going to detail all of the plot but lets just say she has plenty to keep her occupied.

Chess also has to contend with Slobag, another drug dealer and in particular his minion, **Lex: . This book isn't a romance, I would classify it as more of a UF, but there are moments and relationships that will probably be more thoroughly explored in the next books of the series. Most of us that read the UF/PNR genres are jaded about love triangles but I say read this. If you want pure romance don't read this. But I believe her reaction toward Lex is so nicely realistic and her reaction to any possibility of true intimacy is very telling and for me, a fantastic experience in this book. I too am sick of seeing false obstacles that prevent heroines from getting their man when a decent conversation could fix the issue, but here we have a case where it makes complete sense how she interacts with men.

You will find a relatively interesting mystery and investigation, Chess torn between loyalties and her drug habit, mistakes of a very human nature, a spattering of interesting characters (I for one enjoyed Tyson quite a bit and hope to see more this kind of thing in the successive books), some good decently creepy/scary events, and some beautiful moments to be shared with Chess. I am going to read every book of the series, I'm invested and I'm a fan of Kane now!

** The beautiful man in that photograph is Daniel Henney, he is half Korean, not Chinese which Lex is supposed to be I think.

Profile Image for Desperado.
67 reviews
July 3, 2010
My Thoughts:

I received a ARC copy of this novel from GR a few months ago but just recently found the time to read it. Ok, I lied. I was too chickenshit until now to read it after I found out the heroine is a drug addict. You already know the synopsis but I'll give a short recap: Chess is a witch working for the Church helping to banish ghosts. When she racks up a huge debt with her drug dealer, he gives her a job to complete & her debt will be erased & so the story begins.

I enjoyed the world-building in this story of a sort of post-apocalyptic world where God & religion has been proven a myth & the only certainty is power/magic. About 20 something years ago, ghosts came aboveground & started killing people & the Church saved them & banished the ghosts. There are many supporting characters with totally wacked out names & almost all of them are either in gangs or are drug addicts, though a few only do drugs recreationally. There's Bump, Chess's drug dealer whose described as "Frosty the Snowpimp". Terrible, Bump's mega muscle, beating up & killing anyone who gets in Bump's way. Lex, 2nd-in-charge of a rival drug dealer(Slobag) who comes off like a broke-down Jet Li wannabe. Doyle, a rich & spoiled colleague of Chess's at the Church. I didn't like most of the supporting characters but I found Terrible wiggling his way into my heart. First impression is that he's a stupid, ugly enforcer with no mind of his own. But not only is he smarter than anyone thinks, he's also compassionate, caring, loyal & willing to do just about anything to protect those he cares about(some who don't deserve it). I honestly found myself hoping for him to step back onto the scene in some of the passages where he was absent.

As for Chess, I'm unsure what to think about her. On one hand, she does have a moral code & there are lines she just won't cross. She cares about other people & everything she does (including almost getting herself killed a few times) isn't just about looking out for number one. On the other hand, I just couldn't get into the whole drug thing. I don't mind druggie heroes/heroines but I personally need there to be a reason for them to turn to narcotics in the first place & for them to at least want to get clean, even if they feel they can't. Chess gives no reason whatsover for why she turned to drugs & even stated that she'd never stop doing it. One chapter she even thought about blowing the cash she'd get from a job on drugs or going to the "pipes"-kind of like an opium den. And don't get me started on how she feels the need to pop a pill right in the beginning or middle of a few action scenes. You'd think she'd want to have a clear head when going after the big baddie,right? I couldn't relate to her as much I would've liked to with a main character.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I thought the plot was really original & the world Kane has created has me in awe. The action was great, the supernatural crap these characters had to deal with had me creeped out in a good way & there were even a few sexy scenes. I am hoping that Chess will wise the hell up & give up the pill-popping in future novels because I don't think I can root for a heroine who allows herself to be controlled by addiction. I thought this was a great but flawed first-in-series novel by Stacia Kane.

BTW, I'd consider this a little more Dark Fantasy then Urban Fantasy although it definitely has a few of the requirements for the latter genre.
Profile Image for MISS VAIN.
200 reviews494 followers
May 13, 2011
"Debunking often looks like the most appealing of church positions, but very few possess the skill, intelligence and above all, integrity required."
--Careers In The Church: A Guide For Teens, by Praxis Turpin.

My only regret with this book is that I waited so long to read this series. I absolutely LOVE this unique world that even when I'm not reading the book Chess and the Downside World is still on my mind! Fans of the Fever world will fall in live with this world Stacia Kane has created.

Chess is a unique heroine, a Church Witch (a Debunker trained in the art of banishing ghosts) and incredibly likable. Besides her drug addiction, I find her easy to relate to and her inner dialogue is Brilliant!!!!!

"Facts are Truth, Sir."
The itch was starting to sting. The Grand Elder stayed where he was, starting at the elevator doors. Why didn't he just go already? He had places to be, and she had feet to scratch and uppers to snort.

Much to my embarrassment in public I found myself laughing aloud while reading this book. Chess is hilarious!

Another example of her inner dialogue.

If Mrs. Morton would stop verbally jacking off her husband and son this would al be done so much more quickly,but then Chess figured it was just about the only sex the woman got.

She's also relatable because she's insecure, lonely and easily terrified and doesn't prefer the spotlight or being the "hero".

"Stop being such a wimp!"

Damn it! She would be down here all night If she didn't grow a pair of fucking ballsand get to that door on the other side. Why was she such a wimp? Why couldn't she--Terrible thought she was brave. She remembered it now, heard his voice in her head as if he stood next to her.
"They scared. Not you, though!" Terrible thought she was brave and if he- ( a man whose name was Terrible, a man whose path people scrambled to get out of--thought so it must be true. She could do this, she would do this.

Also Mrs. Kane introduced a sexy (though not described particularly that way,but he is so very sexy) friend to Chess named Terrible. He's a powerful tatooed bad boy gangster, but with respect to Chess he's quite chivalrous, a
protector, a friend, and I'm pulling for love interest. I found myself anticipating scenes with Terrible in them.

"Chess" he mumbled. His lips travelled away, down the side if her throat, eliciting buzzing tingles, that made her entire body vibrate and back upto steal her mouth again. " Chessie. Never thought........so pretty."
She could feel the ridge of his erection hot through his jeans.
"Terrible." she managed. "You know how to use this thing?"
He paused....."Oh, aye," he said. "You gonna let me show you."

This is only half of the scene, but it's incredibly sensual and sex wasn't even involved. ;)

I can't wait to start the next book! I'd you haven't read these yet I suggest you do, I have a new favorite series :)
Profile Image for Vered.
123 reviews19 followers
January 14, 2012
I loved it! Loved it!! I haven't loved as much as I loved this one for so long. Since Kate I think.
Excellent writing, characters I fell in love with and one unbelievable, heartbreaking, soul gripping Terrible.
I was so afraid of the whole drag adiction issue, but I fell in love with Chess. Yes, she's a drug addict and no, it was never glorified in any way. It was just what it was. Chess was so fucked up yet smart and courageous and strong and vulnerable and at times i just wanted to hold her and say, no, please don't, don't do that, things will get better. But i couldn't. and they didn׳t and they did and it is what it is.

Wonderful wonderful book. Deep and emotional and so very interesting. And it did things to my heart.

Started the second one obviously.
June 15, 2016
2.5 stars
This was quite a complex mystery novel and I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of those types of books. For me this was a kind of love-hate book that had me on the edge of my seat one minute and bored out of my mind the next. There is action and an interesting sense of pace but I'm not going to rate it higher because I took too long to finish it and it didn't compel me enough.

This book took place years after Haunted Week which resulted in a lot of spirits of the dead roaming and attacking the living by feeding on their lives. It said that the barrier between the world of the living and dead thinned due to astronomical alignments.

The characters themselves were well developed and believable and I've got to say I liked Chess quite a lot. Yes she was addicted to drugs but she was always able to keep her wits about her and be sharp minded. She always got her job done despite her addiction and complicated life and I liked that. Terrible felt like quite a complex character that was hiding a lot and I hope in future books there will be a lot more of him and his background.

The writing itself was very easy to follow and understand but like I said things for me got boring at times but that usually happens when I'm on a book for too long and don't do a lot of reading. I think overall this was a really good, well written book that would please most fantasy fans and I would recommend it but sadly I lost interest towards the end. Will read on though.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
446 reviews1,143 followers
August 31, 2015
4.5 Stars

I'm so excited about this book - I LOVED it! I haven't read an Urban Fantasy this good in quite a while. I've read the first in Kane's 'Megan Chase' series, but she's come on leaps and bounds since then, Unholy Ghosts is just so much better in every respect.

The writing is perfectly paced, I didn't get bored once and everything slots together at the right time. The plot is just brilliant and had me engrossed until the very last page - I didn't want to put this book down!

The characters are fantastic, very well rounded and completely believable. Chess is everything I want in my urban fantasy heroine: kick-arse but flawed, vulnerable and complex. I have a feeling she's going to be one of my favourites within this genre (with Anita Blake at no. 1 at the moment).

Chess is a witch and a ghost hunter, with a serious drug problem. She's constantly popping pills to get her through the day. In fact she has different pills for different situations and choses accordingly. Obviously I don't condone the use of drugs but sometimes life is too difficult for some people to handle and Chess is one of them - using drugs to get through life, and that's why I have so much sympathy for her. I loved the rawness of Chess, she's real and vulnerable with a past that gives me full understanding of why she pops so many pills - to forget. A past full of physical and mental abuse, shipped from one foster home to another. I liked her from the get-go. Kane has created one hell of a heroine.

So now I've talked a little about Chess, let's get on to the guys. I have not met a character like Terrible in any other urban fantasy book. He's not the typical dreamy looking, squared jawed hunk, but a rugged, built like a brick house, rough and ready dude with a crooked nose that's been broken too many times to count. Doesn't sound very attractive does he. But the way Kane reveals his personality through his actions and dialogue is just superb, and well, I just fell totally in love with him myself! He's as complex as Chess, with a dark past to match. In fact they have a lot in common. I really enjoyed their developing relationship and I can't wait to see where it's going in subsequent novels.

There's also another guy on the scene, Lex, a leader of a rival gang. He is described as a gorgeous male and Chess can't but not like the look of him. And I don't blame her, but for all his charm there is something untrustworthy about him and I have my doubts. But with Terrible, I feel he has Chess' back and her best interests at heart. He shows his loyalty many times throughout Unholy Ghosts and it has cemented his fate in becoming one of my favourite hero's in urban fantasy.

Terrible is Bump's top enforcer and doesn't flinch at the prospect of killing someone in cold blood. They are thrown together at the request of Bump, who Chess owes several thousands pounds, to find out what is haunting his airport and whatever it is, he wants Chess to fix it. The world building is spot on. I could smell and see everything described. The world is quite a sombre place and Chess lives where drugs are rife and life is hard. Her only real home is the Church. But the Church of Real Truth isn't like any religion we know today, but almost a dictator that holds the fear of ghosts over the heads of the living. If they do not follow them and do as they wish then they will release all ghosts upon them and they will die. I'm intrigued to find out if the Church of Real Truth are the good guys or the bad, but at the moment I don't trust them.

All supporting characters are also vivid and not one of them felt unrealistic or surplus to the plot, from the young boy looking for help to the terrifying Dreamthief. Unholy Ghosts is a gritty, fairly dark urban fantasy, but this is fine with me as it's my favourite kind!


I think I have squealed enough about this book, so let's just finish by saying that I cannot wait to read the rest of the series - I've heard it gets even better! Unholy Ghosts is a brilliant addition to the Urban Fantasy genre and I can't recommend it enough!
Profile Image for Jeann (Happy Indulgence) .
1,010 reviews4,146 followers
July 6, 2012
While reading Unholy Ghosts, what struck me was how strange and unusual it was in some parts of it's storytelling.

Chess is a witch who hunts ghosts for a living, but she is also addicted to drugs and uses them to deal with her life. In order to use magic, she is an employee of the Church of Real Truth, yet she also hangs out in all the wrong places. This juxta-positioning was a little strange, especially when she snorts drugs, listens to sermons, and hangs around rough-talking males. She certainly is an intriguing character, definitely not predictable or run-of-the-mill in any sense. I'm still unsure whether she's a likable one or not, but I guess I'll just have to wait and see as the series unfolds.

The book features an interesting and unique setting. It's set in a dystopian world based around ghosts, where a Church has been established to deal with the ghost problem. As the first in the series definitely had a lot of world-building to it. Despite this, a perfect sense of pace between mystery, character development, and world building sucked me into the story.

Chess's drug using however, was a bit hard to swallow (no pun intended). She's describe as an addict and that she definitely is and we hear about her need throughout the book.

The men in the book were kind of strange. I don't really buy Chess being attracted to either of them, and they are both are written a bit too similar in my opinion. They're both from opposing gangs, and both use rougher, street speech to talk, and both apparently perfect gentlemen. I kind of find this difficult to believe, but I suppose they are meant to be love interests.

I'm glad I've picked up this series as I've heard it gets really good later on and will be definitely continuing to read it.

Check out Happy Indulgence for more reviews!
Profile Image for Mimi Smith.
478 reviews118 followers
July 16, 2014
4.25 stars

“And the sun set so nothing but darkness existed, and the dead rose with a violent hunger.”
—The Book of Truth, Origins, Article 2

Downside World 101 by Mimi

And all the facts I collected...

The world is not a nice place. Hasn't been since the Week of Terror (hasn't been explained) when the ghosts rose and started killing the living. The Church of Truth rose at that time and became absolute, since they were the only ones who knew how to banish the ghosts by magic. All other religions ceased to exist, because they were unnecessary. Why would you need faith and belief when you know the Truth? Truth about the world, the afterlife, spirits. So, the Church is the most powerful organization.

“There is much humanity cannot comprehend. The Church comprehends for you.”

"The Church protected the People, and the People paid their taxes to the Church. No middleman, no quibbling about how tax money was spent. It was spent the way the Church wanted to spend it, and if the People didn’t like it, there were hordes of malicious ghosts waiting in the City of Eternity, eager to rise again and murder the People should the Church decide to set them free."

“I have no need for faith.” Hundreds of voices raised together, intoning the Credo; Chess imagined other Church buildings, other parts of the country, of the world, with everyone speaking in unison. “I do not need faith because I know the Truth. I do not need to believe. Belief is unnecessary when fact is Truth. I do not pray to a god. Prayer implies faith and gods do not exist. Only energy exists, and this is Truth. The Church shows me the Truth and protects me. If I hold to these Truths I will enter the City of Eternity, and there I will stay.”

The church hires people to fill a variety of positions. There are Elders, what we nowadays would call spiritual leaders, there are Goodys, some kind of secretaries, and there are Debunkers. See when someone complains their house is haunted a Debunker is sent to investigate the claim. If there really is a ghost, the Debunker banishes it and the person who reported it is monetarily compensated. If the claims are false, they have to pay a fee to the Church and the Debunker gets a bonus.

To be a Debunker you have to have a gift. Some spark of magic. You are tattooed and those tattoos hold power. You banish ghosts by having a skull of an animal (a dog usually) and you call his ghost(psychochomp, I think) to escort the wayward ghost to The City of Eternity, which is underground. You do it by performing a ritual. If you're not careful the dog can take your soul, too. Debunkers usually get assignments when it's their turn, there's a waiting list. Goodys hand out assignments.

Every year, a festival is held in the end of October, to remind people of the power of the Church. I'm not sure, but I think some ghosts are released, then?

There is another form of Church employees who go to The City of Eternity and do something with the ghosts. Don't know what.

I think I got everything I said right. I collected every information I could find.

All this is not explained explicitly, but scattered throughout the book, which often confused me and left me unsure. At a certain point I stopped overthinking it and rolled with it. I think all of the snippets from the Book of Truth and other manuals could've been grouped together at the beginning to make it easier. There are still some things I don't quite understand. Ghosts are tangible underground, but above they need to control an object? Can they possess people? How, exactly did they kill all of those people? How did they rise in the first place? When?

Those are the basics. There's some other stuff about magic, but since it's very important in this book and is discovered slowly, I'll leave you to it.

The characters


Chess is a Debunker. She has had a traumatic childhood and she sees the Church as her redemption. They saved her when no one else could. She is also a drug addict, as drugs are the only things that make her feel relief...As Terrible said:

“No shame in it. Some of us needs an edge on things make us feel right, else we ain’t like feeling at all, aye?”

She is very, very dependent and her addiction caused all of the events here, in a way. Her drug supplier Bump, asked her to do something for him, since she owed him money. Lex asked her to do something so she'd get free drugs. The addiction influences her life for sure.

I thought I would have a problem with Chess, because of the drugs. While she's not a character you can admire, or really, really love, she is certainly someone you can feel...sympathy for. She really does her best, stumbling through life. She gets everything done, in the end. My only problem is that I know, she will end up hurting people close to her because of her addiction. Addicts always do. But for now, she's a real character and I'm rooting for her.

Terrible thought she was brave, and if he—a man whose name was Terrible, a man whose path people scrambled to get out of—thought so, it must be true. She could do this, she would do this.

I love Terrible for making her believe this.

Oh, yeah, another thing. At the beginning it bugged me how no one at the Church noticed her addiction since she takes every pill under the sun, but since Lady Jaye told me a drug addict can be highly functional and even normal while under the influence (not experience talking, I'm sure) I'm willing to let it go.


Oh, Terrible, I really don't have words to describe how awesome you are. At first I really had a problem seeing why everyone raved and sighed over you, since you weren't described as an, um, attractive person. Quite the opposite, in fact and you were a professional bully. But later, you won me over. You are sweet, you are nice as much as you can and you care. I heart you.

Here's the first time Chess SAW you...

“…cupping her cheeks like he thought the bones might break. Chess didn’t think she’d ever been touched like that. A pang of pure envy ran through her. The girl caressed the back of his neck and lifted her hands to twine her fingers in his hair. His hips pressed forward, pinning her against the wall, and he dipped his head to kiss her throat. The light caught the prominent ridge of his brow and the crooked bump of his nose.
It was Terrible.”

Where I forgave you for the bully thing...

“Only thing I’m ever good at.”
“What, beating people up?”
He nodded. “I got no school, you know. No family. Bump took me in, I just a kid. Getting in street fights for food, sleeping any flat wheres I could find. Now I don’t have to fight. Nobody wanna dance with me.” Faint pride colored his voice as he spoke the last sentence."

And where I fell in love...

"He pulled away to meet her gaze, and for a minute he was transformed. Still the same features, the lumpy nose and the jutting brow and the hard, dark eyes, but not ugly anymore. Full of character. Full of strength. She looked at his face but she didn’t see it, not the way she had before. The smile spreading across his features was intimate, sexy. The darkness of his eyes concealed so much more than she’d ever imagined."

You are loyal, you are strong and if Chess doesn't see it soon I'm transferring her to the TSTL pile. I like you as friends right now, but later...


I'm still undecided about Lex, since he wasn't that present here. I think he's shifty, though. And he ain't Terrible, that's for sure.

I hope this doesn't grow into a terribly melodramatic Love Triangle.

The Story

Bump calls Chess in to pay her debt. She can't so it falls to her to check out an airport and to banish the ghosts at it. Terrible, who is Bump's enforcer, goes with her. They investigate and discover there's more than just a usual ghost there.

At the same time Chess gets a job. She's supposed to investigate the claim of a suburban family. She's very suspicious at first, but pretty soon she starts seeing weird, weird things, so there might be more to it.

All of these things are connected by a web of mystery, betrayal and death. And Chess and Terrible will be put through the wringer trying to solve it.

ETA-I forgot to add what surprised me in this one: It's a UF not written in 1st person. That's pretty rare, at least with the books I read.
Profile Image for Arunimaa.
209 reviews213 followers
May 7, 2018
Wow, thanks to this book, I have a newly developed phobia of worms.  

Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane turned out to be more than amazing. I am so glad I decided to read it. 

I'll be honest here and admit being extremely picky with my books. I read a lot of reviews ( even though I often get spoilers because of that ), check the average rating before choosing it.
Usually when the rating's below 4, I get really sceptical about the book and often don't keep very high expectations. I know it's bad and wrong  but I can't help  it. 
Doesn't mean i dont read books with less ratings. I try all sorts of books because I like it when I am not expecting much from a book but it turns out be really good. Like five stars good. 

The overall rating of this book is apparently "3.63" which isn't that great and after reading a lot of other reviews I think I understand it. This book is quite a complex one. 

It's very different from the other Urban Fantasies that I have read. It's graphic, darker and not all that pretty. 
Too much drugs. Too many slangs.
And there is some really freaky shit in here which left me with actual goosebumps and racing hearts. 

I have noticed a lot of people not liking Chess here as a protagonist. Which is understandable. She is not your usual badass MC. She is badass alright but she isn't all that strong all the time. She needs her drugs to go on with each day. 
Now I admit myself, I hate drugs and smoking with a passion. I don't judge other people who engage in it at all. It's just a personal opinion. But the thing is that when I am reading a book, I try to connect with the protagonist. Relate with her. And yes, I was put off with Chess' addiction at the beginning. She isn't just a regular drug abuser. She is a full blown junkie who has to take multiple pills and smokes a day. Without remorse or regret.

At one point I was so disturbed by the whole thing that I finally decided to take a beat. I closed the book and did some thinking. It was important for me to understand Chess as a character. Why is she like this. It wasn't fair to dislike a character because of a problem she has. A lot of people have this problem and it's very important to understand them. 

Chess has gone through a lot as a child. When she wasn't even ten yet, she had been subjected to all sorts of physical and sexual assualts. She had a hard time growing up. I also learnt the reason for her addiction which isn't mentioned in this book. It isn't really a spoiler but it makes a lot more sense.
Chess has a lot of problems but she is a self dependent and strong minded woman. Drugs is her only weakness. I don't love her. No, not yet. But I really do admire her. 

And coming to my favourite part of the whole book : Terrible. 
I don't have words to explain what I feel for him. How much I am in love with him.

Terrible is ugly. 

Urban Fantasy and an ugly male love interest!? How in the world did that happen?Hell must have frozen over. I know right. That's what made me love this book so much more. How different it was from other urban fantasy stereotypes.

“Nothing here, Chess, nothing here.” She didn’t know how many times he said it before it finally sank in, before the queasy vibrating stopped in her legs and she could raise her head and look at him.
“Thought you was good with the spook stuff,” he said. “You look like some dead.”
“And you look like Elvis vomited you up,” she managed. “So?”
Hinges creaked in her ears again as he laughed. “So we both looking bad, guesses. But I do always, and you do never. You right now?”

Terrible is such a precious character, 6'4, with large jutting eyebrows, scarred face, large crooked nose but at the same time he is the most beautiful character in there. Also he is hot as hell and kissed like a motherfu**** wet dream. He is scary alright, doesn't talk much and has speech issues but he is such a sweetheart. It also shows how much he cares for Chess more than just a friend even though he hasn't said anything as of yet.

We also have another male love interest. Now I usually avoid love triangles like plague because I just hate it when a girl is confused between her two lovers moving back and forth and especially when she chooses the wrong one. But here, I don't have much problem with it. Lex, the other guy is super scorching hot Asian drug dealer. There is a lot of attraction between them but I don't see any romance. I really like Lex but I have a strong feeling that Terrible and Chess will be endgame, since it makes much more sense. Lex and Chess are attracted to each other but it doesn't feel anything. It happened too early. But with Terrible, you get to see a lot of relationship development. Nothing much has happened between them but that's what later books are for.

The rest of the book otherwise is incredible. It took me a lot of time though at the beginning to grasp the world building. But the writing is amazing. Especially the messed up English that almost everyone except Chess had. As I said before as well, there is some really freaky stuff in here. It's dark and raw.


Happy Reading :)
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