Unholy Ghosts - Stacia Kane Stacia Kane should write an instruction course on world-building. She's created a very unique setting in Triumph City and the Downside and somehow managed to make me wish I could talk like this for a day: "I know what you need, don't I? Don't Bump always know? Bump's your fuckin friend, yay? So you trust Bump. Take what you want, then we have a chatter. Maybe we help each other."

And I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Why, Rachel? Why would you want to talk like a poorly educated mash-up of Yoda and Rocky Balboa? Will public education never stop failing our children?" So I want you to stop pounding your head against the desk and mourning for this nation's lost future. I'll explain. Firstly, I have a deep-seated, perhaps slightly fanatical wish to sound bad-ass. In real life, I tend to talk like Mary freaking Poppins, okay? I use the phrase "Geez Louise!" in polite conversation. Just once, I'd like to say something like, "Rachel know what you need, aye? Don't Rachel always know? Maybe you not fuck with Rachel then, yay?" Of course, that would be dependent on the person I'm speaking with to refrain from laughter, but that's another conversation for another day. Secondly, and more relevant to the actual book review, Kane managed to create her own dialect with her Downside characters. At first, my mind rebelled against the way Bump, Terrible, and Lex speak. I waved my invisible fan in front of my face and harrumphed and tsked like some dowdy society matron from a Regency romance. However, as I became more immersed in the story, my indignation melted away. The dialogue rolls in an organic way, and Kane's dialect makes the life in Downside a leaving, breathing thing.

If not for the terrifying and murderous ghosts, the far-reaching power of the Church, and the suggestion that just about everyone is hooked on drugs to make the pain of everyday life go away, the Downside would be my ideal home. I won't lie - this is mainly because I want to meet Terrible and touch his pompadour and mutton chops. And that brings me to another thing I liked: Kane makes unsexy things sexy. Consider my cozy little world in shambles.

Unholy Ghosts tells the story of Chess Putnam, a tattoo-wearing witch for the Church of Truth. Chess lives in a new world from what we recognize today. The Church depends on Debunkers like her to keep ghosts where they belong, in the City hundreds of feet below the surface. These ghosts aren't like Casper at all; they're evil and bent on gaining power through the blood of those they murder. When Chess is blackmailed by her drug dealer (Bump) into investigating a reported haunting at a property he wants, she falls into some very black magic. Could someone within the Church be in on it? And how is Chess supposed to juggle her obligation to Bump and his enforcer Terrible when a rival drug lord wants her to do his bidding? Everything comes to a head in an intense and action-packed tale of magic and personal tragedy.

Chess is a fascinating protagonist. She's smart and strong yet vulnerable. Her drug use doesn't bother me very much because I'm pretty sure Chess wouldn't be able to function without them. Enough happens to her in just this book to traumatize me for life, like freaking worms in her freaking hand wound! OMG, I can't even ... WORMS! It's also well-established that Chess's childhood pretty much set the standard for WTF-ery. Drugs are bad, kids. But damn, if anyone has to use them, it may as well be Chess. Her addiction adds a lot to the story, too. When Chess doesn't get her fix for awhile, she gets itchy and antsy, her mind starts to scatter, and she becomes consumed with her need. Kane doesn't romanticize or brush away Chess's addiction with pretty writing. It's real and it effect her everyday life. Despite all of that, Chess is an accomplished witch. She uses all the resources available to her and saves the day several times. Even though she's rough around the edges, she maintains a moral standard throughout the story.

And then there's Terrible. Terrible. I want to hug and kiss and squeeze his giant ugly face until he feels all the love he deserves. His dynamic with Chess is almost heart-wrenching to read. Terrible kills and beats up people for a living, but beneath the violent exterior is an honorable guy just looking for love. Chess has never had a friend before, so she isn't quite sure what to do with Terrible. Chess, I would like to direct you to the third sentence in this paragraph. Apply and repeat. That is all.

Other characters include Sexy Lexy (or Lex, as the story actually calls him), who throws a wrench in Chess's work for Bump but also manages to be sweet in a Downside kind of way, Chess's fellow Debunker Doyle as a man spurned by their one-night stand, and several families trying to prove their houses are haunted in exchange for a monetary reward from the Church. Ghosts never look as good as they do when $50,000 come with their presence.

I have one complaint about the story, and it may have more to do with my reading comprehension than the writing, but whatever. At times, I got a little lost, especially during the action scenes. Any one movement or decision seems to drag on for an entire page, and by the time I got to the next page, I forgot what just happened. Kane uses vivid descriptors, and after a second reading, I usually understood, but sometimes all of the stuff going on took me out of the story. Other than that, I don't have many complaints.

Unholy Ghosts kept me riveted and entertained the whole time. I can't wait to check out the next book in the series. And yes, that is because I want to cover Terrible with love spells through the pages of a fictional book. Don't judge me. You don't judge Rachel, aye? Rachel make omelet of your face, she will. Okay, I'll stop it with the Downside speak now. It will never work for me. :/