For What It's Worth

Friday, December 20, 2013

Review: Chasing Magic (Downside Ghosts #5) by Stacia Kane


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.

SPOILER WARNING: No spoilers for Chasing Magic but I do refer to the previous books in the series.

This book emotionally drained me.

A lot happened in Sacrificial Magic (book #4). When I finished I felt like that was the pivotal book that would turn Chess in the right direction. Now don't get me wrong. I know this is a Stacia Kane novel and we're talking about Chess Putnam. It isn't going to be all sunshine and rainbows after her epiphany but still I wasn't expecting the emotional turmoil.

Not only is Chess not better, she's probably worse. Although that's over simplifying things. Something I tried to do a lot while reading this book but Kane just would not allow me to.

The action is dark, gruesome and unrelenting. The big bad in this book is a dark magic that is being slipped into the Downside's drug supply turning it's users into murderous zombies. This spells all kinds of trouble for Chess on a personal level. First - she's a drug addict so she could actually be a victim herself. Second - this crime wave pits the two men in her life, Terrible & Lex, against each other.

There were points throughout this book that made me want to slap each and every one of these characters. Then I just wanted to help them and enroll them all in group therapy or anger management or something. I was torn almost non stop. Lex does horrible things - but I get him. I felt like we maybe saw a bit more of Bump but he's still an asshole. Elder Griffin gets much more page time and it's kind of heartbreaking. I hope we get to see a lot more from him in the future. Chess backslides so far at a few points I could just shake her. Then I remember that I had friends with a past like hers and you know what? Abuse and addiction don't go away with the love of a good man.That's the reality. As much as I would like the easier, happier, fantasy solution, I admire that we get the honest depiction instead. I think it's hard to stick with that 5 books into a series and still keep your heroine sympathetic. Honestly this book tested that for me but Kane succeeds in the end.

Chess and Terrible continue to make inroads in their relationship. I think. Terrible always gives Chess the room she needs so that she's in control and can go at her own pace but in Chasing Magic he's also laying down a few rules. About time! It will be interesting to see if she can stick to them. For the first time I wasn't sure if their relationship is even healthy. No doubt Terrible gives Chess something to live for, a reason to be a better person. I'm rooting for them 100% but sometimes their love is dark and violent, almost like a drug or addiction in its own right. Again, Kane doesn't take the easy way out. It's honest. They live in a violent world. Terrible is a violent person but it made me uncomfortable at times. We also get to see the major consequences of saving Terrible's life with that sigil.  (and soooo many to die for swoony Terrible moments)

This whole book made me uncomfortable and made me question and change my opinions throughout.

If I wasn't reading on my iPad, I probably would have thrown it across the room a few times.
I do start to get a little weary of the spells and constant beatings. It gets repetitive after a while but I really enjoyed how magic was used to explore the gentrification of Downside in this book. It really tied together the warring factions and lent an urgency to solving this crime. It also made me wonder about what's best for the future of Downside. Obviously not zombies or pretending the residents don’t exist but are the heroes of this piece any better when they are keeping them drugged and are ruled by pimps and drug lords?

One thing I would like to see more of is Chess and Blue's friendship. I almost want to see Chess say F*CK it! and take off with Blue - Thelma and Louise style (minus the whole dying thing). No guys and just take some time away to find out who she is without the men in her life defining who that is for her.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 Roller coaster reading ahead! If you can take deeply flawed characters this is the series for you. Relentlessly uncompromising and gritty. I loved how this book challenged my opinions and had me thinking for days after.

Author: Website | Twitter
Source: Netgalley for my honest review
Buy the book! Chasing Magic
Reviews for previous books in the series: The Downside Ghosts Series - books 1-3 | Sacrificial Magic book #4


  1. This sounds interesting. I may need to check it out. Thanks for the great review!

    1. If you do check the series out I suggest starting from the beginning - City of Ghosts. It's not a series you can drop in on without having the background of the previous books.

  2. Hmmm, as I haven't read this series before I'm not sure how I feel about a read that makes you uncomfortable like that. Sometimes that's good, sometimes not so much - guess you have to be in the right mood and it has to be the right kind of uncomfortable!

    - Jessica @ Book Sake

    1. I can rarely handle uncomfortable reading lol but for some reason his series works for me. The characters are so deeply flawed yet realistic. It wouldn't work if she glossed over things like drug abuse and violence.
      I imagine that this won't be the right book or series for everyone.

  3. I skimmed thru it coz this is on my TBR for next week. Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy it as much, i liked the first three but I'll have to see after this.

    1. Oh no!!! I did love it! Sorry to give off the impression that I didn't. It was just messy and complicated and had my emotions ALL over the place lol

      Let me know what you think as you progress int he series!

  4. Great review and I agree with inroads with Terrible and Chess and their relationship. I loved that he wants some rules with her :) I agree I wanted to see more Blue too. Thanks for getting me addicted to Terrible and chess. I love you.

  5. I did try the first 3, but dunno, I was never hooked on the series

  6. We both know this series is too hardcore for me, but even as a non-reader I'm glad that it's taking such a serious approach to some difficult topics while they're playing out in an urban fantasy world.

  7. I like uncomfortable reads. This is another series that I think I have a few books from and I hope to get to them soon.