(Hey everyone! If all goes well this will end up being an honest to goodness--traditional!--book review. Before I get started I feel I should warn everyone I have ADHD and my medication is starting to wear off, also I dislike doing things the way they should be done--did I mention I also have Oppositional Defiant Disorder? Because I totally do. Anyway, my point is, despite the fact that I'm attempting to write a legitimate review I might go off on a few tangents like this. Just thought I'd warn you.)
When City of Ghosts begins our protagonist, Chess, is on medical leave, recovering from the events of the last book. Not only has her work life been put on hold, but her personal life is in shambles. The only friend Chess ever had--Terrible, enforcer to a powerful drug lord--wants nothing to do with her, treats her with disdain, and rebuffs her attempts to make things right. The other guy in Chess's life, Lex, is reluctant to walk away even after Chess tells him she's not interested. Much drugs are had.
She wonders why she let anyone into her life to begin with; her old solitary life was less complicated.
Then it seems things start looking up for Chess. She's able to return to work, agrees to assist the Black Squad on a particularly difficult case involving dark magic. Bound by a powerful spell, Chess is unable to tell anyone what she's doing, why she's investigating a building near one of her dealer's properties. Because of this she is forced into working with Terrible once again--though, in all honesty, she craves Terrible's company, wants a chance to talk to him--and allow him to accompany whenever possible as she investigates so he can piece together what's really going on and report back to his boss.
Duty bound, Terrible does as he's told--works with Chess--but he is mercilessly cruel less than happy about the arrangement. They discover there may be more to the case than originally thought: more players in the game, and a form of black magic Chess has never encountered before. To make matters worse the woman Chess is reporting to is condescending and just plain irritating to be around. Oh, yeah, and Lex keeps showing up. It's a disaster.
I enjoyed this installment of the Downside Ghosts series. I wish I could say I loved it, that I'll be giving City of Ghosts five stars, but I can't. While I reveled in the relationship aspect, I sort of had to slog through the mystery/Chess's professional life. It's not that the latter was uninteresting, it's just that personal relationships have become a big part of Chess's life, key to her overall character development. Things between Chess and Terrible are so unbearably awful that it's difficult for Chess not think about it all the time. Even I spent way too much time being angst-ridden over the whole ordeal. I lost much sleep over it, walked around feeling like crap for a couple of days. True story. This isn't typical behavior; it's rare for a book to affect me so immensely.
Because of my complete inability to relax until things were somehow resolved between Chess and Terrible, I could not focus on the mystery. This is pretty unfortunate as the details of this particular case were a lot more complicated than any of the other cases Chess has worked on. Which means I got a little confused from time to time and I was frustrated with myself and the book.
Do I place the blame on Stacia Kane? In her writing? Her storytelling abilities, originality and timing? When it comes to this specific series I'd have to say no, I don't blame Stacia Kane for my frustration. Sure there are aspects of the Downside universe that don't quite work for me, details that are a little fuzzy, and some grammatical errors (ironic I point this out, I know, seeing as I hardly ever edit what I say or write) but none of it stopped me from being so completely consumed by this series that I could do little more than think about it for a week straight.
I mean, it's a dystopian urban fantasy about a drug addict who traps ghosts for a living. The characters are named Chess and Terrible. Other than Kane's talent for storytelling, for writing emotion in such a way that it moved me on so many levels, there's no reason for this series to be among my favorites.
But it is, it totally is. The Downside Ghost series by Stacia Kane is going on my 'favorites' shelf, and even though City of Ghosts probably only deserves three stars--overall--I'm going to go ahead and give it four because it ends on such a satisfying note.
(A copy of this review is posted on my blog