Monday, August 13, 2012

Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane

I've had the Downside Ghosts series on my radar for a long time, and just recently got around to downloading a copy of the first book to my Nook. The premise seems new. All of the religions of the world were effectively debunked (at least those claiming knowledge of the afterlife) when suddenly all of the ghosts in the world showed up and killed millions of people. The new Church came into being when a group of magic users had and used their powers to re-bind the ghosts back where they belonged. Every so often there is a Festival, where a small portion of the ghost are released to spend time in the normal world for a short time, though they appear to be limited in the damage they can do.

Chess, or Cesaria, is a Debunker, an agent of the Church who is responsible for investigating any rogue ghosts, or at least claims of a haunting. When a family actually has a real ghost, the Church compensates them monetarily, so there is a strong motivation to fake a haunt, though the penalties are severe for getting caught, as well. Chess is trained to use rituals to dispatch the ghost or ghosts back where they belong.

Chess is also a deeply flawed protagonist, which seems to work for this very dark world that Kane has created. She is an orphan from a series of very abusive foster homes who found her new home in the church, though she has never really bonded with any of her fellow workers there. She's also a severe drug addict, and spends most of the novel snorting or popping some substance.

When a very strong ghost appears on the scene, and her drug pusher wants her to banish it so that he can use the abandoned airport where the haunt appears to smuggle in more drugs, Chess gets in way over her head. That doesn't seem to stop her from trying, though she pursues a number of false leads on the way to finding out who is responsible for summoning the ghost.

The story, and its protagonist, are just intriguing enough that I will probably spring for the next novel in the series. Unfortunately, most of the mechanics of plotting appear to be the same as nearly all urban fantasy with a strong female lead these days - an abused woman with no friends or deep romantic attachments is forced to develop same.

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