Rummanah Aasi
  Stacia Kane's Downside series has been recommended so many times to me. Many declared that it is in their top favorite urban fantasy series. I was warned that the series is dark and gritty, but I was not really prepared how dark and gritty it came across. Although I did hit some major stumbling blocks and a difficult reading experience with this book, I do see what attracts this series to readers.

Description (from the Publisher): 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.

Review: Unholy Ghosts was a difficult read. Unlike the other books I've read in the urban fantasy genre, Unholy Ghosts is steeped into darkness and the seedy side of societies where drug lords, prostitutes, and the destitute are our main characters. There not many light moments that helped diffuse the serious and ominous tone. It me a while to get into the story, but I did see the appeal of a promising concept. Our protagonist, Chess Puntnam, lives in a world where the boundaries between the living and the dead blur. Chess works for the world-ruling Church of Real Truth, debunking false claims of hauntings and banishing the occasional real ghost. The Church is a fascinating and complex concept, one that you're not really sure how to decipher whether it's good or evil.
  Like the institution that she is working for, Chess is a very flawed character who doesn't always make the right choices. Along with being a powerful ghost hunter, Chess is hiding a huge secret: she is a drug addict, waiting for a solitary moment to get her next high. She makes decisions and finds work to get enough money to buy drugs so when a powerful drug dealer calls on her services to erase her debt to him, Chess finds herself investigating an abandoned airfield, a horrible human sacrifice, an ominous apparition, and a conspiracy against the church itself. I'm a bit conflicted about Chess. I wanted to know her a bit better outside of following her on the job, but she's either too broken to be sympathetic or too stoned to be coherent.
   Another a character that caught my eye is Terrible, a pimp working for the drug lord Bump that has witnessed too many horrors than you can count. Though Terrible is described to be what many would call ugly with his deformities and scars, there is something magnetic and appealing about him. He seems to steal the show every time he appears. I would definitely would like to find out more about him.
  In addition to Chess's drug addiction, another hurdle that I had to get over is the book's local dialect. The book is also written in the third person perspective, which I thought was an interesting choice by the author. Though I didn't give this book a high rating, I'm willing it to give the series another try as I definitely see potential of enjoying the story despite its darkness. If you do decide to pick up the book, I would suggest trying the audiobook. 

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, violence, scenes of drug usage, and sexual situations. Recommended for adults only.

If you like this book try: Unholy Magic by Stacia Kane (Downside #2), Mind Games by Carolyn Cane, Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett
7 Responses
  1. I have wanted to try this too but now I am a bit hesitant. I can only do so much dark, you know.... I think that this would still be one I should check out, but I will do so with caution!

  2. Berls Says:

    I've had this book on my TBR for so long, but never seem to get around to it. I had no idea it was so dark though; I don't mind a little, but I like to have some humor and light moments to cut it with. Hmmm, maybe this will stay on TBR for a while longer...

  3. Jenny Says:

    This is definitely a challenging series Rummanah! And certainly not for everyone. I fell madly in love with Terrible from the beginning, he's magnetic for sure, but I did struggle with Chess. Her drug addiction is hard to get past, and I agree the local dialect takes some getting used to! I hope you do try the second book and maybe the 3rd, I found myself settling in easier and quicker after book one.

  4. With pimps and prostitutes and drug addicts, I'd probably find it quite difficult to enjoy this book, simply because it's just not my sort of thing. I do have a copy though, so I guess I am curious, but I don't have any immediate plans to start it. Lovely review, Rummanah!

  5. Rubita Says:

    The Downside Ghost books practically take an ax to my comfort zone and yet I think they're incredible. Stacia Kane is the only writer I have come across that can make me want to read about an unrepentant drug addict. I admit that the darkness of the world sometimes scares me, but I can't help having hope for Chess. On the other hand, given that darkness, I'd be devastated if she didn't get a happy ending.

    And I listened to the audiobooks--Bahni Turpin does a fan-bloody-tastic job with the narration.

  6. I have no problems reading a contemporary about an addict, but I'm less tolerant with other genres. As a personal preference, I also avoid reading stories involving the seedy parts of society. So, I'll probably pass on this one, especially since you only gave it a two. But, it's good that you think the series has potential.

  7. You haven't convinced me to pick up this series. I don't like my books quite that gritty and dark. Guess that's why I stay in the MG and YA age groups. But I commend you on sticking with it and reading the complete novel. And thanks for the review. It must have been tough.


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