There are no heroes or villains in Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane. There is no black or white, only shades of gray where Truth trumps Faith and people do what they have to in order to survive. Ghosts are real, they’re angry, and they’re out for blood. The only people standing between them and you are the Churchwitches, tattooed and equipped to Debunk the angry spirits and send them back to the City of Eternity.
Cesaria “Chess” Putnam is more than a Churchwitch. She’s also a loner, an addict, and damn good at her job. She has the poor fortune to fall into a ploy to defraud the Church and resurrect a Dreamthief powerful enough to send the Downside to its knees. The deeper into the rabbit hole she goes, the deeper she becomes involved with two powerful, frightening men. Both have the power to destroy or rebuild her, but only Chess can save her soul.
Unholy Ghosts isn’t a romance, but Terrible and Lex, the two male “interests”, factor heavily into the plot of the story and development of the protagonist. Nevermind the fact that they sound like Gary Oldman in True Romance; speech patterns aside, they are two of the most important characters in the book.
Terrible is an enforcer for Bump, Chess’s drug dealer and cause for much frustration. Bump blackmails Chess into investigating a “haunted” airport so he can fly drugs directly into Downside. He sends Terrible to watch over the investigation and help things along should she need muscle. The thing is, Terrible is never really terrible. He’s big, he’s mean, but he’s also respectful, polite, intelligent, and as moral as you can be in this world. There’s a pivotal scene a little over halfway through the book when Chess takes too many drugs and confronts her bodyguard outside of a dingy bar. Things get heated and she finally sees Terrible for the man he is, not the caricature he’s become. Unfortunately, the drugs take their toll and she completely muddles the situation, but not before the reader sees into Terrible’s heart and the possibilities it holds if Chess could just let go. I sincerely hope she does in future books because I absolutely love his character.
Lex plays a similar role but he works for Slobag, a Cantonese drug lord who isn’t too friendly with the Church. Lex kidnaps and seduces Chess before blackmailing her. Are you sensing a theme here? Don’t get me wrong; Lex isn’t all bad. He has a protective streak, never takes advantage of Chess, and seems to truly care about her. I just don’t trust him. His importance lies in what his character allows the reader to learn about Chess. One scene, in particular, stands out:
“Ain’t you got no people be worried?”
“No. I don’t have any people.”
“Sounds like maybe you wrong.”
By kidnapping her, Lex shows Chess that there are people who care enough to worry about her. She is worth enough to be worried about. This is a huge step for Chess, who spent most of the book up to this point drowning in drugs to accommodate her self-loathing and low sense of self-worth.
Don’t get the wrong idea. There’s more to Unholy Ghosts than heinous plots and rampant drug use. There’s also an impressive amount of worldbuilding, great music, and a healthy dose of comedic relief. I finished this book with a huge smile on face, and it’s all thanks to Lex preparing to beat some sense into someone.
I feel I should give a warning about Unholy Ghosts before I end this review: the protagonist is just that, a protagonist. Chess isn’t a heroine, never claims to be, therefore she shouldn’t be expected to act heroic. She’s not a bad person and she doesn’t do anything heinous but she doesn’t subscribe to the morals you may be used to in your characters. She’s a drug addict, plain and simple. She scratches the itch when it gets bad, and it gets bad quite often. Don’t expect her to change her ways by the end of the book. Not only would it be unrealistic but it would negate the need for a series. What fun would it be if all the loose ends and character building happened in the first book? Not much. Keep this in mind before you read Unholy Ghosts. Give it a try, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
- Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Del Rey; Original edition (May 25, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0345515579
- ISBN-13: 978-0345515575