Author: Stacia Kane
Publication Date: 6/26/12
Publisher: Del Rey
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Blurb(GR): Magic-wielding Churchwitch and secret addict Chess Putnam knows better than anyone just how high a price people are willing to pay for a chemical rush. But when someone with money to burn and a penchant for black magic starts tampering with Downside’s drug supply, Chess realizes that the unlucky customers are paying with their souls—and taking the innocent with them, as the magic-infused speed compels them to kill in the most gruesome ways possible.
As if the streets weren’t scary enough, the looming war between the two men in her life explodes, taking even more casualties and putting Chess squarely in the middle. Downside could become a literal ghost town if Chess doesn’t find a way to stop both the war and the dark wave of death-magic, and the only way to do that is to use both her addiction and her power to enter the spell and chase the magic all the way back to its malevolent source. Too bad that doing so will probably kill Chess—if the war doesn’t first destroy the man who’s become her reason for living.
I know I’m not the only one who starts to get that feeling of dread as a series I love gets longer and longer. There’s a part of me that’s always just waiting for the installment that jumps the shark. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before. And the first four books in this series have all been so good! The stakes are even higher. Well, never fear! As your advanced warning system, I’m here to happily wave the olly-olly-oxen-free flag and assure you that this one is everything that we’ve come to expect from Stacia Kane and more. I’m weird and I love depressing books so Sacrificial Magic will probably always be my favorite, but this one is a very close second.
I think that many of you less-grouchy readers will find a new favorite in Chasing Magic, which has bigger consequences, swoonier romance, and about 100% more gore. Yes, I said gore: impromptu amateur autopsies, murder scenes drenched in blood and flung body parts, hoards of magical zombies. I felt a bit underwhelmed by the mystery in Sacrificial Magic but in this one, it’s absolutely compelling. And gross. I loved every disgusting minute.
The overarching conflicts of Chess’ addiction, her relationship with Terrible, and the struggle between The Church and Downside also get more page time in Chasing Magic, which is exactly what I was craving. I am so completely invested in this story and where it’s going, and a lot of that is because I have no idea what I’m rooting for! Do I choose:
a) The all-powerful ruling body that marginalizes the poor and has far too many dangerous secrets…but also rescued an orphan Chess, gave her a safe home, and apparently approves of gay marriage wholeheartedly? (Seriously, is this what’s going to need to happen for the U.S. to legalize gay marriage? Are we going to have to have a ghost-fueled apocalypse?)
b) The seedy underbelly of the city, where gangs rule and the desperately poor barely survive, but also where an orphaned Terrible found his place and where Chess feels the most at home?
How do I choose? And more importantly, how will Chess choose when that moment arrives? I can’t wait to find out. It’s not a simple, black and white, villain vs. good-guy story and that’s what makes it all the more interesting. Neither are the heroes shining virtuous do-gooders. They’re violent killers and kingpins; they’re damaged girls and junkies. They’re misfits.
Stacia Kane always surprises me with the things that she gets me rooting for. In the real world, I would look at the relationship between Terrible, who solves his problems with violence and Chess, who solves hers with a little narcotic-fueled selective amnesia, and I would probably think they should both seek help before entering into any kind of romantic relationship. But that’s the thing: this isn’t our world. This is a world constantly on the brink of apocalypse, where survival is an everyday struggle. And Stacia Kane is such a complete master at writing deeply personal, realistic characters. It’s almost impossible not to feel for these two, even as they are both making very unhealthy decisions. Reading these books just makes me want to throw my nay-saying rational brain out the window and believe wholeheartedly that these two crazy kids can make it work (and save the world while they’re doing it).
Chess makes progress in this book as well, which is both painful and therapeutic to read. There are a few parts where she even seems to draw on her years of abuse and trauma as a hidden store of strength, which I loved. Chess is who she is – wounded and damaged – in many ways beyond repair. But is that something that should be universally grieved, or is there the smallest space where it can be accepted or even celebrated? I love that these books make me swell with pride for all the recovering addicts, the abuse victims, the suffering, the misfits. There are some tough motherfuckers in that crew.
Perfect Musical Pairing
The Antlers – Putting the Dog to Sleep