I was lucky enough to acquire a copy of this book at FantasyCon earlier this year. It wasn’t the sort of book I would normally have chosen, but I decided to give it a go and I’m so glad I did.
This Urban Fantasy, the third book in the ‘Downside Ghosts’ series, is good enough as a standalone novel without the reader having to read the rest of the series first.
The book centres around Cesaria (Chess) Putnam; a junkie witch who works for the Church. In Chess’s world, governments don’t exist any longer. Instead, the Church is in charge, but it’s not the sort of church you normally think of, this one employs witches, works good magic and ensures ghosts are escorted to the ‘other side’.
When the Lamaru, evil doers who practice dark magic, start leaving body parts in Downside, Chess is drafted into working with the Black Squad (sort of like the Police force of the Church), and in particular with the Grand Elder’s daughter who is a class one bitch. Then things start to change for the worse. Chess undergoes a binding ceremony which prevents her from telling any unauthorised person details of the case she’s working on under pain of death – literally. Chess doesn’t realise at first how difficult and confining the binding will be until her drug dealer demands to know what she’s up to. To make things even worse, her ex-lover who she has done the dirty on, and who is the drug dealer’ enforcer is assigned to keep tabs on her. She feels guilty about how she treated him and wants to put things right, but he doesn’t want to be on the same planet as her.
As Chess starts following clues, another character enters the fray, throwing a major curve ball into the mix. At first it’s not clear how significant this character is to the endgame, but let’s just say there’s an unexpected betrayal.
The book builds tension, slowly at first but then gains momentum and you arrive at the point where you don’t want to put it down. The worldbuilding is excellent and the use of description is well crafted. While Chess isn’t the most loveable character, especially in the beginning, you find yourself warming to her and finally rooting for her to succeed. She’s strong but has a vulnerability that is appealing. Overall the characterisation is vivid.
The plot is well written, with enough twists and turns (and one or two surprises) to keep you hooked. I found the dialogue very strange and difficult to understand at the beginning, but after a while you get used to it.
All in all, I found it entertaining enough to want to read the other two books in the ‘Downside Ghosts’ series.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely!