Speculative Fiction Book Review Blogger
Stepping into Stacia Kane’s Downside world was like walking into an alternate universe where the Church reigns supreme, ghosts have wiped out two thirds of the population and the residents speak a language that’s entirely their own. The magical rules are numerous and complex, the world-building is extremely heavy and the influx of new terminology is beyond confounding. To sum it up in one word I felt lost. Thank goodness for my GoodReads support group because otherwise I don’t think I would have been able to make it through this audiobook in its entirety. Then again, I felt similarly when I first started reading Karen Marie Moning’s Fever novels which now rank among my favourite Urban Fantasy series’ of all time so understandably, I’m going to stick this one out a bit longer. At least until I discover what all of the fuss over Terrible is about!
I really struggled to connect with the main heroine, Chess. Her drug addiction frustrated me to no end; although I can understand the whys behind it, I still had a difficult time comprehending her need to dull her senses, especially given how dangerous Downside really is. You’d think she’d want to have her wits about her in case a murderous ghost decides to cross her path. Chess is a debunker for the Church of Real Truth which means that she’s supposedly one of their most highly trained employees. I found this hard to believe considering she does her job high on most days. A large portion of the mistakes she makes and her delayed light bulb moments during an investigation are caused by her drug use. There were times when I just wanted to yell “if you’d stop doing lines for one freaking minute you might be able figure this sh*t out!” I liked that she’s a flawed heroine but I also would have liked to see her sober for at least one chapter.
The world-building and terminology are definitely going to take some getting used to. I can’t help but wonder if I’m being penalized once again for choosing to listen to this book over reading it because I’m thinking that the physical copy probably comes with a glossary. On the flip side, I think listening to the audiobook does have a few advantages, namely being able to better grasp the Downside lingo. I like that Kane invented her own language for this series; it helps to set it apart from the crowd. I’m not going to comment too much on Bahni Turpin’s narration in this review because I was more focused on grasping the world than on her overall performance so I’ll save my feedback on that for my second kick at the can when I check out Unholy Magic.
After feeling immense pressure from my fellow reviewers to LOVE this book I can’t help but be a little disappointed that I wasn’t immediately swept off my feet by Stacia Kane’s first Downside installment. The plot’s entertaining, the dialogue’s memorable and the world-building left me in awe but the drug addicted protagonist was difficult to swallow (pun intended). Heroine and druggie do not belong in the same sentence in my opinion. Here’s hoping that my second trip into Downside will be better than my first.
Takes awhile to get into these books, but by the the end of the second one I was hooked. Bahni Turpin is the best choice of narrator for this series. Gritty and not a pretty story, but fascinating at the same time.
This book is a little darker than your typical Urban Fantasy. The main characters are drug addicted criminals, make no excuses for it, and content with who they are. The world the author creates is well developed, the bogey man in the story is frankly, kinda scary!
I enjoyed the book, it kept my interest, and I will be checking out the next book in the series.
Devourer of all books fantasy
This is the first book in Kane’s Downside Ghosts series. The fifth book in this series, Chasing Magic, comes out the end of June 2012. This was a gritty urban fantasy and a creative idea featuring some very flawed characters. I enjoyed it for its creativity. I listened to this on audiobook.
The audiobook was decently done. I wasn’t crazy about the narrator; her voice bothered me a little. The narrator did distinguish between characters fairly well; although a few of the male characters sounded very similar and were hard to tell apart. I wouldn’t strongly recommend listening to this on audiobook, but it was okay.
Chess is a Church witch in a world where the Church of Real Truth runs everything. Some time ago the ghosts rose up and murdered two-thirds of humanity. The third that is left is beholden to the Church of Real Truth for keeping the viscous spirits locked up. Chess is a debunker for the Church and checks out hauntings to see whether they are real or not. Chess has a secret though; she is also a drug addict heavily in debt to a dealer named Bump. Bump forces her to check out a haunting at an airport for him in order to clear her debt. Little does Chess know that Bump’s job for her will collide with some other dark happenings that involve the Church.
The concept behind this world is intriguing. It is an urban fantasy with a post-apocalyptic feel to it. Two thirds of the population was murdered by ghosts during Haunted Week. Now the rest of society ekes out what living it can while supporting the Church of Real Truth. The Church of Real Truth keeps ghosts trapped in the City of Eternal Life and grants large rewards to anyone who has a haunting (since it means the Church failed in its duty to contain ghosts).
Pretty interesting world but also very dark. It follows that the characters are incredibly dark as well. The story also has a number of parts that make you think “Yuck!” Kane doesn’t pull her punches on gory descriptions.
Chess is an interesting character. She is a drug addict so a big portion of her life is driven by her need to feed her habit. This gets her into some trouble and sucks her money. Interestingly enough though she functions okay for her job and manages to hide her addiction from her co-workers. What also makes her interesting is her dedication to do what needs to be done. At one point she has to choose between a day of oblivion sucking on the pipes and hunting down some info; she chooses to do her job despite her yearnings. She also occasionally uses drugs to aid her in her work; speed to keep her awake during a curse that makes her want to sleep...stuff like that. So she functions remarkably well considering.
Chess has a very dark background; she bounced through foster homes, many of which she suffered numerous kinds of abuse as a child at. This is occasionally discussed but never in great detail. I just wanted to mention it because it is one more level of darkness added to the story.
The characters surrounding Chess are just as flawed and just as hard to like; but they still have a lot of depth and are well done. Even though these characters are all hard to like, that doesn’t mean they don’t engage the reader well. Of the surrounding characters my favorite was Terrible; he is basically the hitman for Bump and gets assigned to protect Chess on her investigation. Terrible is a wonderful mix of contradictions; he is loyal yet vicious, he is quick to injure and kill yet gentle with Chess. Really he is just a wonderfully interesting character.
The mystery in the book is very well done and the plot never slows down. There are many seemingly separate story arcs that tie in well together. There were a couple times in the story where Chess made logical mental jumps that didn’t make sense to me as the reader; I suppose you could blame the drugs but hopefully in future books the reasoning will be better done.
Overall I enjoyed reading this book. I didn’t like the characters a ton, but they were interesting. I loved the idea behind the world, the mystery, and the magic. I am curious to learn more about this world. Just a warning that this is a pretty dark and gritty urban fantasy; so if you don’t like gross, gory or gritty I wouldn’t recommend reading this book. Recommended to fans of dark and gritty urban fantasy.
DOOP Philadelphia Union DOOP
This was a very enjoyable story, and the narrator was incredible! It was slightly predictable, and the "F" word was used in abundance... If you're sensitive to that kind of language, this book is probably not for you... But over all, the story drew me in. The author and narrator had me in the first chapter, which for me, rarely happens. This is one of those rare series I will buy all at once and listen to back-to-back. Usually I like to space them out so I don't get bored with the characters, but usually I don't bother writing reviews, either. It's a good "future earth" or "dystopian" or "urban fantasy" type story. Can't wait for my credits so I can get the next in the series!
I love paranormal fantasy, paranormal romance, really most anything in the Fantasy genre. I also love to read a good series. I own way more titles than any one person should, but this is my main form of entertainment. That being said... this is probably one of the most unusual series I've ever read. Really different!
This book, the first in the series, started off a bit slow and at first I didn't care for the narrator at all. I was thinking I'd wasted a credit and the story was stupid and the narrator sounded like an uneducated gang member. I thought the narrator sounded like that because the heroine WAS an uneducated gang member and so were the rest of the characters. I was outside pulling weeds and had dirty hands and was basically too lazy to wash up and change books. Thank goodness! I now own all five in the series and I read them back to back.
The main character, Chess, is a fairly powerful witch in a very nasty world. The premise is that vengeful ghosts got loose somehow and killed a large segment of the world's population. In this world ALL ghosts are vengeful and want nothing more than to kill the living, and somehow they all got out at once and started wreaking havoc. The only people that could put the ghosts back where they belong and protect the living are witches that get completely tattooed in protection and power symbols. Since these witches are the only people who have this ability they basically take over the world, create a giant bureaucracy & government structure, outlaw all organized religion, and kill anyone who tries to release or contact any of the ghosts. Okay, that sounds bizarre but we all know how to "suspend disbelief", right? Then comes the fact that our heroine is a freaking drug addict. Huh? And she's sleeping with her pusher. Really? And falls in love with the gang enforcer who might be forced to kill her if she screws up. Yeah, okay.....
Well, this all just works. Chess is one of the most interesting characters I've ever read -- she alternates from being totally fascinating to infuriatingly stupid to amazingly heroic. She is profoundly damaged by her childhood and the state of the world, but she is loyal and dedicated and really tries to do good and to help people. She just has this tiny little problem where if she can't get a fix every so often she goes into full meltdown withdrawl. She works for this new government and they've basically saved her life by educating her and giving her a quite respectable job that almost pays enough to keep her in pills, cigaretts, blow, and booze.
Each book in the story has a core mystery/adventure/deathly situation solved by the end of the book. However, the books are chronological as far as her personal and work relationships and should be read in order. With her bosses and coworkers on the one side, and the gangs, pushers, prostitues and junkies on the other side, Chess is in constant conflict even without all the nasties she has to deal with. The plots are original and suspenseful, never boring. The narrator is a perfect choice, but I would love to hear her talking to someone in real life. She does the job so well I can't decide if she'll sound like a college professor or a suburban snob or actually an uneducated gang member. Which is it?
I guess these books would not be for everyone. If you've never made any bone-head mistakes or dipped your toe into the less-than-savory parts of the world then you probably would hate Chess and all her friends. If you've ever skirted the edges or have some understanding of the subculture then these people will ring true and are even sort of admirable. Good job Stacia Kane & Bahni Turpin, thanks.
Audible has opened up a whole new world of reading that I could not make work in the traditional page turning world. I am on a mission to listen to a wide variety of adventures, mysteries, thrillers, classics, etc. Thank you Audible!
This is a dark story and there is a heavy and constant thread of the main character’s struggles with drug addiction. At times I found the ongoing focus on her drug cravings and symptoms to be distracting, but I think this was in part due to how real/accurate the author portrayed real drug addiction. That being said the author does a great job developing her characters in a way that brings them to life and she created a highly engaging listen. Stacia Kane writes in a way that makes you feel the emotion, which varies from fear, disgust, desperation, addiction and triumph to list just a few.
The story, characters and emotions are made even better by the amazing narration by Bahni Turpin. This is the first time I have heard her narrate and I am so impressed with the skill and energy that she brought to this book I will be looking for other works she has done.
At this time I have only completed the first book of the series, which was well worth the credit. It kept me riveted from the very beginning and the intensity did not diminish. I am excited that Bahni Turpin is the narrator for the remaining four books in the series, which encourages me even more to continue with this series. If you are looking for more of a summary of the story I recommend referring to T. Hernandez’s solid review titled “Not for the faint of heart.”
There were parts of this novel that I enjoyed. The world building was interesting and the writing was good enough. Unfortunately, starting about half-way through the novel, I started to lose interest. Before I downloaded the audiobook, I checked out reviews on Amazon.com and skimmed through a copy from the library. So I was warned by many readers who had trouble relating to Chess's drug addiction. I found that her drug addiction was and was not the problem.
We like our heroes flawed. Even Superman had his flaws. Without flaws, these heroes would be gods and what story, what conflict would there be? Gods would just change the world to be the way they want it to be with no argument, no resistance, and no story.
So, Chess's flaw is that she uses drugs to deal with childhood trauma. That flaw could make her unique and interesting character if she could learn from her mistakes and choose to change her behavior. She even admits that her addiction is a burden and chooses to maintain it anyway. So, she bumbles her way through her life making mistakes that cost lives, mistakes that could be avoided. And when she has bumbled her way through everything and comes out admired as a hero, she doesn't need to suffer any remorse or change her behavior because now she has a good, cheap source for even more pills.
A relatable character: to be more specific its not about her addictions its about her coping mechanisms that are so grungy, dark, cynical, and self-loathingly human. It seems to become more and more difficult these days to find a book in the fantasy/fiction category that doesn't fill its pages with a flimsy storyline and cheesier pornography. The story line isn't full of fluff, I am seriously happy I listened to this book.
I found this book after being in a reader-rutt from the Fever series, it helped pull me out of it.
She was great, I thought her characters were all well done.