This review was originally posted on amazon on March 5, 2012:
Brief Plot Summary:
Chess (Cesaria) is a Debunker for the Church of Truth in Downside. This series is a bit of a twist on the post-apocalyptic/dystopian book that is very popular right now, and focuses on ghosts, not zombies. Zombie fiction has become fairly ubiquitous, and I am not really a zombie fan, so it was nice to read dark fantasy that didn't involve zombies. The apocalypse occurred in the form of Haunting Week -- when all of the ghosts escaped the bounds that had been placed upon them, churches and religion had failed, and approximately 66% of the population died. This enabled the Church of Truth to rise to power. The Church of Truth is not based upon any of the major religions, but is, rather, based upon magic and its ability to contain the ghosts, and in some weird way reminded me of Philip Pullman's "Authority."
Not surprisingly, the ghosts don't particularly want to be contained, and, of course, there are other groups of people who want to overthrow the Church of Truth and seize power. And they are prepared to do pretty much anything to accomplish their goal, no matter who, or what, they unleash upon Downside.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
I thought that Stacia Kane's worldbuilding was excellent. It was interesting, and internally consistent. This is a dark world, and, in keeping with that darkness, the main character, Chess is a dark heroine. She is reckless, moderately promiscuous and a drug addict, not to put too fine a point on it, but in spite of those failings, Chess has integrity. More integrity than a lot of the characters who don't have her supposed moral failings. I loved the fact that Stacia Kane made Chess so complex and interesting -- it takes a really gutsy author to give her main character the flaws that Chess exhibits in this book.
I also enjoyed the writing. The dialogue is a little weird, with the characters occasionally breaking into a form of pidgin pirate -- lots of ayes, and a few thous. Sort of weird, but not out of keeping with the general theme of the book. The character names are also extremely descriptive. Most characters have only one name -- Bump, Chess's drug dealer, Brain, a homeless child, Lex, enforcer for Bump's primary rival, Slobag, and then, of course, Terrible. And Terrible is a great character. Huge, violent, not nearly as dumb as he initially appears, and obviously attracted to our girl Chess.
One of the most interesting, and unique, dark urban fantasy series beginnings I've encountered and an absolute steal at 99 cents. I can't wait to read more of Stacia Kane's work.