Series review: Downside Ghosts series by Stacia Kane

Posted 21 January, 2013 | Mary @ TheBookSwarm | | 20 Comments

Stacia Kane‘s DOWNSIDE GHOSTS series is a dark, gritty urban fantasy series starring Chess Putnam. Wait. I’m really terrible at blurbs so I’m going to share the blurb from the first in this series, UNHOLY GHOSTS, which sums up the entire series pretty well….


The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen, and the living are under attack. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully tattooed witch and freewheeling ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for banishing the wicked dead. But Chess is keeping a dark secret: She owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump, who wants immediate payback in the form of a dangerous job that involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust for a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump’s ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it. Hell, yeah.

So, this started last year when I picked up CHASING MAGIC (Downside Ghosts #5) by Stacia Kane via NetGalley, not having read anything by Kane, though I’d heard good things about this series. But I couldn’t get into it. The language was strange, the characters were extremely rough and tumble and the main character was a serious junkie.

With a sigh, I closed the book and wrote it off for the moment, thinking that maybe, if I had time, I’d try again later. People (Jenny and Felicia, I’m looking at you) commented, saying I really did need to start from the beginning and Ruby did a Book Bully post on her love for Downside Ghosts.

I caved. Urban fantasy is my first love so when people I trust say, “Start at the beginning. You’ll love it.” I believe them. Plus the UNHOLY GHOSTS ebook is only $2.99. How could I resist?

Taking a deep breath, I plunged in and didn’t emerge from my Downside reading spree until I’d read all five novels. This world…this world that Chess survives in is so broken and harsh and beyond my ken. There’s absolutely no way I’d want to live there but it was an amazing place to visit and I can’t wait to return. 

For those looking at this series and wondering if it’s for them, definitely start at the beginning. Chess, Terrible, Bump, Lex, the Church, the drugs, Downside itself…it all takes some getting used to. Churchwitch and debunker, Chess Putnam is so very broken, cobbled together by her faith in what she does, her Church and her drugs. She lives in the tattered neighborhood of Downside, alongside other junkies, dealers, prostitutes and people just trying to survive in the aftermath of Haunting Week, when ghosts rose from their graves and committed mass murder before being contained by a new Church.

Because Chess is a junkie, something that would get her kicked out of the Church in a hot minute, if they found out, she’s beholden to her dealer, Bump, who thinks that he owns her. And, in a way he does. He holds all the power and, with that power, pulls Chess into difficult and dangerous situations that she must solve on her own because she can’t turn to the Church.

At her side through these situations is Terrible, Bump’s muscle and enforcer. He’s scary, intimidating and not at all attractive…at first. The relationship that develops between the two of them is touching and heartbreaking, as the two jagged souls dance around trust and love, feeling their way in the dark, slicing themselves open on each others’ sharp edges. Chess’s addiction just adds another layer of razor wire to the relationship.

For urban fantasy fans, the Downside Ghosts series is a can’t-miss. Start at the beginning and brace yourself. The world that Stacia Kane created is dark and treacherous, filled with evil creatures (usually humans), mindless ghosts who just want to kill, a Church that *seems* to have the peoples’ best interests at heart and a witch just trying to survive day by day. I’m as hooked on this series as Chess is on her Cepts and speed.

The as-yet-untitled Book #6 is due out in June 2013 and I’m counting the days.

About Mary @ TheBookSwarm

20 Responses to “Series review: Downside Ghosts series by Stacia Kane”

  1. Oh but that sounds super awesome!!! But. I have to say that I am normally not a big Ghost fan… ah. However, the covers look awesome and you and Jenny loving it so much I might need to give it a try after all. 2.99 seems perfect to see how I like it!

  2. I guess that’s a reason not to start books mid-series. I have heard so many good things about Stacia’s books. I’ve been meaning to read them for a long time. As Danny said, 2.99 is hard to resist. On another note, I keep getting her mixed up with Stacey Kade.

    • A lot of series you can start in the middle but this one just doesn’t work (at least not for me). The backstory and build-up are just amazing. (and I got her confused with Stacey Kade when I first heard of her, too!)

  3. YEAH!!!! This is a series you just can’t start in the middle. Like you said, the language is crazy at times, Terrible is hard to understand, Chess is a challenge to like, and it’s all a hot mess. You really have to follow Chess’s struggle from the beginning and then I think these books just rip your heart out:) I love Terrible so very much. Glad you decided not to give up on the series and went back to the beginning. <3

  4. The thing about the Downside books is that you have to put aside all your preconceived notions and just start reading. The characters, the world, the writing–they’ll all suck you in. I’m glad you finally gave it a try!

  5. I know EXACTLY what it’s like to get swallowed by Downside and spit back out as an entirely different person. The same happened to me some six months ago and I’ve been thinking about Chess, Terrible, Blue and Lex ever since. I love all those people so much, but most of all, I love how Downside is also a character, so very alive.
    I’m glad you ended up liking it. 🙂

  6. I have heard SO many good things about this series so I picked the first one up for kindle too. I just haven’t had a chance to start it yet. Your review has me thinking I really need to try to fit it in soon. I’m wondering if I should try to get a few more of the books first so I can just keep reading…

  7. Oh wwo I didn’t know this was so good! I love dark UF reads and I really love the covers of that series which totally counts! ahah.

  8. I’ve seen this series in bookstores before, yet somehow I never get the chance to pick it up and see what it’s about. I LOVE how you describe the world and all the emotions and Chess and Terrible. Urban Fantasy is one of my favorite genres besides YA so I will definitely be checking out the ebooks, Mary. 🙂

  9. It seems like from your review and all the comments that this one might be worth checking out. The description doesn’t really appeal to me, but I do love complex characters and this series sounds like it has that in spades.

  10. Anonymous

    Great review. I’ll take your word for it and start from the beginning. Thanks