Sacrificial Magic (Downside Ghosts #4)
by Stacia Kane | Harper Voyager (May 2012)
Paperback, 403 pages | Urban Fantasy
LAURA: It was with eager anticipation that I opened my copy of Sacrificial Magic I’d read all three in the series back to back last year, my love of the series growing with each book. Chess and Terrible are such unorthodox characters, that each time I enter their lives I want to applaud Kane on her guts to be different and her vivid characterisation.
Maybe I was just too excited to pick it up, but it actually took me a while to sink back into. The Downside speak which had seemed so natural before took me a while to get back into its rhythm. I was desperately eager to see more of Chess and Terrible after the events of City Of Ghosts and it seemed I was going to have to be left waiting. Waiting, longer than I hoped to be honest with the narrative focusing initially on Chess’s investigation rather than the love life that had me eagerly turning pages before. It wasn’t what I would call a slow start, but at the same time it was a start that left me wanting.
CAROLYN: I also read the first three books back to back and loved them all SO much. After City of Ghosts I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Sacrificial Magic. But like Laura, when I eventually received a copy and began reading I found it difficult to sink back into the Downside world, speak and characters, and yes, even Chess and Terrible. It took me until about half way through the book to finally find my rhythm. I will admit that my first thoughts were, ok so this is a bit of a let down.
The reason being is that Kane left me totally spent and in bits after City of Ghosts, and I suppose I wanted to literally begin this book where the last one ended. Instead I got Chess, doing her job, getting rid of ghosts, with no real thoughts on what had happened previously. It was as though Kane had purposefully decided not to mention Chess and Terrible, and make us wait. And wait we did… I also had a few issues with Chess that I just couldn’t shake off as I read the book.
LAURA: Once more Chess is torn between her job for the church and her complicated relationship with her drug dealer Bump. Left investigating a dark magic ritual murder for Bump and a haunting in a Warehouse in the other side of town, and of course Lex’s father Slobag’s territory. She knows it could cause her a whole world of trouble. The different elements in Chess’s life seem to be becoming more and more disparate as she desperately tries to juggle her job, her addiction, her love life and her friendship with Lex. It was exhausting watching her do it and at times oh so painful.
The mystery element of the plot was great, I cannot fault Kane’s writing here. It was tight, twisty and kept me guessing. There were times I had no idea how it was going to end and the suspense and ghosts were chilling. Just like Chess’s life it also really crystalised the difference between life in Downside and the Church. There are developments in Sacrificial Magic that will also have shocking consequences for the rest of the series.
CAROLYN: Kane’s writing is tight and descriptive, and keeps me on my toes, whether with the mystery aspect to the plot or the relationship dynamics. The mystery is great as always, but this time I felt as though it was definitely the focus of the novel rather than the characters and their relationships. Not a bad thing as this is categorised as an urban fantasy, but considering Chess and Terrible were such a huge part of the first three books, I did feel as though this novel had taken a different turn, which is probably why I felt a little cheated when we didn’t get much of Chess and Terrible until later in the book.
LAURA: I’m really not quite sure what happened to Chess is this book. We all know she has problems, her addictions a part of what makes this series so appealing and unusual. But she seemed to lose sense of herself. She became whiny and full of self doubt. I wanted to give her a good old shake. At one stage she went on a complete kamikaze ride of destruction leading to a brutal scene between her and Terrible I could hardly bear to read. Oh it was so painful. But at the same time it really didn’t need to happen. I think Kane was trying to demonstrate just how volatile and on the edge Chess really is. She is a drug addict for a reason is she not? But I hate to say it, but she just ended up irritating me. I hope after the final scenes of the novel that in the next book we can see a new, wiser Chess.
CAROLYN: As previously mentioned I had a few issues with Chess, especially with regards to some of the decisions she makes. With everything that has gone on between Chess, Terrible and Lex, I thought she would have the sense to stay away from Lex for a bit. But the moment she chooses to agree to see Lex in his bedroom, I knew that things wouldn’t end well. Nothing happens between them, but Chess feels she needs to tell Terrible to keep things out in the open. There were pages of Chess thinking and analysing, and instead of getting an insight into Chess, she just annoyed me. The way she acts is desperate, which I suppose she is, but I wanted her to have grown a bit more, gotten a little stronger, it is book four after all.
I could have forgiven her for going into Lex’s bedroom, as nothing happened, but then she goes and does the most stupid thing when Lex kisses her by surprise – she kisses him back!!!! OMG Chess! You have Terrible. HAVE. Don’t throw it all away! I know people are attracted to other people sometimes when they are in relationships, but the fact Chess’s relationship with Terrible is new and exciting and HOT, why on earth would she feel the need or even want to kiss Lex. This disappointed me. Chess disappointed me. And I hated it.
Then we had to go through all the anxiety of having to tell Terrible, again, but this time it’s about something that did happen – the kiss, and how sorry she is.. yadyada. I’m not sure I could trust her again if I was Terrible. I get that she’s messed up. She’s had a shitty past and she has to take drugs just to get through each day. But she’s an adult now, and the choices she makes are hers alone. I’m looking forward to the day when she realises that. I’m looking forward to seeing Chess tell herself NO to another pill. To being strong, to knowing and believing she’s worth something, deserves Terrible’s love, and not keep on self-sabotaging her relationships because she thinks it’s only a matter of time before it ends anyway *breathes*
LAURA: Oh yes don’t get me started on the whole Lex thing! Why oh why did she keep going back to him?! Argh! I had more than a few teeth grinding moments. As I said before Chess did seem to be on a bit of a self destruct mission in Sacrificial Magic. It was evident she did not believe she deserved happiness, so set about destroying all chances of that herself. Will we ever see a clean Chess? I’m really not sure we will. But there were times reading the book where I thought to myself if the romance ends up going the way it seems to be I’m going to be very tempted to throw the book out the window.
However, there were some lovely, tender moments. Chess and Terrible are a thrilling couple, when they are working together I love them so much. I love that Terrible accepts her for who she is drugs and all. They are unusual and goose shiveringly good. But there just did not seem to be enough of them together in the book. I know it’s not a romance series, but their relationship really is the core of what got me addicted to Kane’s writing. I kept flicking through pages with a frown thinking when are we going to see more of Terrible? The book focused a little too much on Chess’s investigation and not enough on the romance in my opinion.
CAROLYN: There are a few sweet moments between Chess and Terrible, I agree, unfortunately they are too few and far between for my liking. Their unique relationship has me totally captivated. When they are together I forget everything around me and I’m totally absorbed in their lives, even when it’s a train wreck. They are also a couple I haven’t come across before in any other urban fantasy series I’ve read, which makes them all the more special and exciting. I can’t wait for more Chess and Terrible in Chasing Magic.
LAURA: here were times when Chess did drive me a little crazy in this book, but I’m still a big fan of this series and would definitely recommend it to urban fantasy lovers. Chess and Terrible are unorthodox, infuriating, exasperating, but… completely absorbing. I do hope we see a bit more of them in Chasing Magic.
CAROLYN: As with all preceding books, Sacrificial Magic had my emotions all over the place. Kane has an immense talent at pulling my heart in all directions. Terrible is such a sexy untraditional hero, and I love that he loves Chess for who she is, drug addict and all, it’s just sad that Chess can’t see that too. Their romance, however, is one of the most intense, stressful but beautiful I’ve ever read, and although I have some issues with Chess in this instalment, she and Terrible are still two of my favourite characters and couples in urban fantasy fiction, and this series is still one of the best.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- Unholy Ghosts (Carolyn’s Review | Laura’s Review)
- Unholy Magic (Carolyn’s Review | Laura’s Review)
- City of Ghosts (Carolyn’s review | Laura’s Review)
- Sacrificial Magic
- Chasing Magic
BUY YOUR COPY