Fourth in the Downside urban fantasy series revolving around Chess Putnam.
It always blows my mind how well Kane does all the dialogs in this series. The primary point of view and the voice in the stories is Chess with her more educated elocution. The residents of Downside, the ratshit neighborhood where she lives, are much more, shall we say, interesting. It’s difficult to switch back and forth and choosing where to stop and start and Kane has got it down.
Kane also provides a lovely bit of preaching on books and their covers. Terrible’s looks may live up to his name, but Chess knows that there are so many more beautiful people who are only that on the outside and not inside where it truly counts. Think about it. When you get to know people, do you really describe them as this “gorgeous chick” or that “hunk’a hottie”? Or are you more likely to describe them as “really nice” or “such a jerk”?
Okay, this is the first positive I’ve read about the Church…Elder Griffin has fallen in love. With Keith. And it’s no big deal. As for Blue gettin’ up in Chess’ face…nah, she hasn’t a leg to stand on and if Chess had more self-esteem, she’d see that. Nor do I see why Chess has to be the one to move the body. She doesn’t owe ’em anything!
Oh, brother, I just wanted to smack Chess! It’s that whole self-esteem thing. The way she was raised, how she was treated by those asshat foster parents. oh god.
Kane doesn’t really paint a detailed picture of this new world. The one that evolved after the ghosts “came to life”, but what she does write stimulates the imagination so intensely that you feel and step carefully through the Downside. You hold your breath when dealing with the Church. And you feel every bit of panic Chess undergoes.
Oops, it seems as if Chess’ past may be coming back to haunt her when Slobag seems to be getting inside information and Bump’s people are being sacrificed in ritual magic in Bump’s territory. There are rumors about Slobag having his own witch. It would have to be now that Elder Griffin wants her to take on a special case. One that has her crossing into Slobag’s territory. Encountering Lex. Terrible is never going to believe she isn’t betraying him. Again.
Making things worse is Lex showing up at the school. Kissing her. The little acts of sabotage plus at the school that threaten Chess’ continued health, not to mention her life. The supplies for black magic that just happen to show up at the school.
It’s also the time of greatest crisis for Chess. Not trusting in Terrible. Not trusting in herself.
It’s that last sacrifice that truly becomes a sacrificial act for Chess. She must choose between forgetting all the people she loves to revel in having none of the horrible memories of her childhood. Or, she can remember Terrible and his love for her at the cost of keeping them.
Chess Putnam is a Church witch and comes with all the credentials for exorcising ghosts back to the City of Eternity. She’s also an addict and we learn a lot more about just why she needs those damned pills. A good reason to examine any foster care system.
Terrible is Bump’s enforcer. And Chess’ lover. Bump is a pimp, drug dealer, and anything else that’ll make money in Downside; he has a hold on Chess’ services due to her drug habit. Slobag is Bump’s rival in Downside and Lex is his son. The same son Chess was screwing (and betraying Terrible with) in exchange for pills a while back.
Elder Griffin is Chess’ boss at the Church and he’s planning to put in for a promotion. He’s hoping that Chess will put in a good word for him…even if she would probably kill to keep him where he is. Aros Burnett was the Debunker who fled the job Griffin is sending Chess on. He…he didn’t survive with his sanity intact. Elder Lyle does the autopsy on Bill Pritchard, a victim of a nasty, vicious plot. Agnew Doyle, Dana Wright, and Elders Ramos and Jones help rescue Griffin and Chess.
It’s interesting that the Mercy Lewis School isn’t all that concerned with actually aiding Chess when she shows up. They’re antagonistic. As if they have something to hide. The adults associated include Beulah as the community liaison; Laurie; Monica Freeman is the secretary to the headmaster, Master Elder Conrad; and, Wen and Martha Li are chair and co-chair of the Student Association. Students with some input include Vernal Sze, Maia, and Jia Zhang. Students of the past include Chelsea Mueller whose book on black magic is in Jia’s possession and Lucy McShane is a student who killed herself 25 years ago.
The cover is dark with an extreme close-up of Chess peering down to look at the elaborate tattoo on her bicep as she’s hunkered over a dark, stony hall lit by overhead fixtures. I do like that touch of sparkles in the “c”s of the title.
It is a Sacrificial Magic that threatens to end the world and presents difficult choices for Chess.