Author: Stacia Kane
Publication Date: 5/25/10
Publisher: Del Rey
Blurb (GR): THE DEPARTED HAVE ARRIVED.
The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen, and the living are under attack. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased. 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.
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.