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ARC Review: Sacrificial Magic by Stacia Kane

Submitted by Doll Suz on March 22, 2012 – 7:31 am14 Comments

Author: Stacia Kane
Book: Sacrificial Magic
Release: March 27, 2012
Series: Downside Ghosts #4
Reviewer: Suz
Source: Net Galley
Purchase: | Book Depository


When Chess Putnam is ordered by an infamous crime boss—who also happens to be her drug dealer—to use her powers as a witch to solve a grisly murder involving dark magic, she knows she must rise to the challenge. Adding to the intensity: Chess’s boyfriend, Terrible, doesn’t trust her, and Lex, the son of a rival crime lord, is trying to reignite the sparks between him and Chess.

Plus there’s the little matter of Chess’s real job as a ghost hunter for the Church of Real Truth, investigating reports of a haunting at a school in the heart of Downside. Someone seems to be taking a crash course in summoning the dead—and if Chess doesn’t watch her back, she may soon be joining their ranks.

As Chess is drawn into a shadowy world of twisted secrets and dark violence, it soon becomes clear that she’s not going to emerge from its depths without making the ultimate sacrifice.

I write about my experience when I’m reading a book, and this writing will be no different. I suppose I should start this review of Stacia Kane’s next installment in the Downside Ghosts series, Sacrificial Magic, with my confession. I’m a Downside junkie, right up, and I have no interest in giving it up. Now, that’s not to say that I wasn’t ridden hard and put away wet, because I was. That’s just the way it is when you let yourself get willingly strung out on something. Even so, by the time it was over and I looked back on it all, took a deep breath and took it all in, I was glad for the ride and knew I’d do it again as soon as the train left the station.

I had just come out of reading the six chapter novella “Home” in the Downside series when I discovered I’d somehow managed to score an ARC of Sacrificial Magic. Kane had lulled me into a false sense of security with Home, making me feel all warm and fuzzy, safe in the arms of new-found lusty-love and the new perspectives that come with it. So I launched into Sacrificial Magic thinking that Chess had somehow found some kind of miraculous transformation between Terrible’s thighs and off the page; and would now be super-charged with a new sense of love-induced good judgment *cough, hack, wheeze* and all her inner turmoil and baggage had been packed off to Know Thyself Self Actualization-land. Yeah…uh…no.

People are dying by ritual magic in Downside and the murderer doesn’t seem to care too much about drug dealer territory borders. Chess gets sent by the Church to investigate a reported haunting and manages to end up smack in the middle of the murders as well. It doesn’t help matters that most of the investigation puts her in the middle of the territory that is not the territory Terrible, her boyfriend, works for. That means she sees a lot more of Lex than Terrible likes.

After reading Home I’d love to tell you that our girl was a pillar of solidity, but I’m afraid she’s still human and she still makes things harder than they have to be. That’s probably the most frustrating thing about these books for me, watching her do the things I know she shouldn’t do! I mean come on! We all know what’s best for our girl, right? We all see the trouble coming and know she better not do that! We all know she needs to stop believing that garbage and taking those pills and playing that mind game and and and… but we have to watch her do it anyway. It’s a bit like watching our own child make their own mistakes, I think. Knowing you want to stop them and are helpless to do anything but let them make their own choices. I spent the better portion of the book wanting to shake her, and a little bit of it wanting to shake Terrible, too.

All throughout the book we are led to believe that the Sacrificial Magic of the title is the magic that is being used for the murders, and perhaps to some extent it is. But there is a climax to this book. One that I think is massive and at the same time under played. It’s about choices, and really aren’t all choices sacrifices of a kind? I wish I could talk more about that, but it would spoil so much that all my book friends would disown me and then I’d never have anyone to talk to about this stuff. So read the book and let’s talk about what happens at the climax, because it’s really killing me to keep it to myself.

In the meantime, I want to see more couples work through stuff the way Chess and Terrible do. Warts and all. I want to see more people accept each other the way they are, they way these two do. Warts and all.

I hope I never stop hurting every time someone says they wish there wasn’t so much drugs in the series, as if it somehow takes away from the humanity of the character. And I hope that the character finds a way to heal all the bullshit that was told to her all her life, because it’s a tired refrain that will transition from reason to excuse quickly. She beautifully embodies the dichotomy of fragility and strength that is woman. I have every faith that Stacia Kane can find a way to help her keep it and emancipate her from her history, too.

Suz has a grown son, two grandsons, a degree in graphic design and loves both computer and studio fine arts. She reads a lot. She's not very good at diplomacy, most people find her abrasive. She grew up cutting her teeth on high fantasy (and low?) ala Anne McCaffrey and science fiction ala Robert Heinlein. She's gone through bouts of Stephen King and the like being her focus, too. But for several years now she's been stuck in Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. She must admit that she is most often scornful of the Paranormal Romance, constantly hoping to find that rare offering that breaks the tropes and molds but cynical and a bit condescending if she doesn't find it. If you see that from her, it means she was too hopeful for the book and ended up disappointed, not scornful of the genre.
Doll Suz
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  • Karen says:

    Great review. It’s really tough to read sometimes but the raw honesty is what keeps me coming back. Chess makes mistakes but at least she’s making progress and I don’t think I would buy into a quick fix for our girl anyway.

    Reply to this comment »
    • Doll Suz says:

      Well said, Karen! I probably wouldn’t buy into a quick fix either, but after Home I have to admit that I was lulled into wanting it for her for just a bit longer. I was diggin’ the cuddle vibe for a bit. But one of the things that I really like about Chess is that even under all the garbage that she’s let others pile on top of her, at her core is solid strength and well meaning. She’s human, perhaps the most human of all the characters I read. Sometimes I want to hug her and choke her at the same time! :)

      Reply to this comment »
  • Deborah says:

    Great review. I love the way you aptly stated my thoughts about Chess and some of the feelings I have had about/with her in the series so far. She pulls my heart strings and pushes my buttons at the same time. Looking forward to returning to Downside.

    Reply to this comment »
    • Doll Suz says:

      Hey Deborah! I love sharing Downside with you! You have the analogy perfectly put. It’s not really bitter sweet as a dichotomy, more like heart strings and button pushing at the same time. She’s too grown to seem like a child, her problems are too adult to be childish, but watching her reminds me of the heartbreak of watching my grown child make his mistakes.

      Reply to this comment »
  • Doll Kitt says:

    I feel so left out and far behind not having read this series yet. Honestly, my excuses are weak in comparison to how awesome this book, and series, sound. The one thing I already like about it, that so many seem to hate, is her addiction. It’s nice to see a heroine flawed in a new way… or at all. Not to mention, I’ll totally be able to relate to somewhat of what she’s going through, I think.

    Great review, Suz. (Btw, it totally made sense. Lol :p)

    Reply to this comment »
    • Doll Suz says:

      I’m so glad it made sense, Kitt! I was actually worried about that! HAHAHA Thanks for telling me so.

      I think you’ll like this series a great deal. It’s gritty and not pretty, and frustrating because it just refuses to take you where you want it to, and joyful and surprising because where you end up is usually pretty kewl anyway. It’s not the best choice for someone looking for a prettily packaged escapist ride, but it will take you for a trip and it will leave you thinking about what is really important in your world, and it will leave its mark.

      That’s no small thing, in my estimation.

      Reply to this comment »
  • bamafever says:

    Great review Suz! Chess and her addiction almost turned me off of the series but I am so glad I kept reading. I like she is flawed also but I do hooe we see her learn to love herself and trust that she can live her life and not try and keep herself in a fog. When she faces life like she does ghost she will be unstoppable.

    Reply to this comment »
    • Doll Suz says:

      *hugs to bama* I’m so glad you stuck with it, too! I know it was an uncomfortable thing for you to keep going and I’m very proud that you pushed through that discomfort and allowed yourself to see what was beyond it.

      I have every faith that you will enjoy this book, as well. This is a wonderful series and Chess really is growing, even if she seems to sometimes take one step forward and two steps back. I think she’s like some of us who seem to flounder a bit but when we make strides we do them in big steps. I think this series is worth the emotional investment, and I’m glad it’s been a payoff for you so far, too. :)

      Reply to this comment »
  • Doll Day says:

    TERRIBLE!!!!! *faints*

    I love Chess Putnum and I’m so effin excited that there are TWO new releases this year. The wait has been long, but I’m sure it is well worth it!

    Reply to this comment »
    • Doll Suz says:

      So, SO worth it! And I have every faith that the next one will be just as scrumptious, if not more so. This series just keeps getting better. It’s a “chews me up and spits me out, and then makes me glad because it did” kinda series.

      Reply to this comment »
  • kimba says:

    Great review Suz! And I can’t wait to read this book!

    This series has wormed itself into one of my all time favorites! I love that the characters aren’t all beautiful and perfect,and OMG Terrible is one of my all time fav honeys!

    To anyone who hasn’t read this series yet,take the leap! I was one of those who waffled in the beginning about reading about Chess and her drug issues,but it has won me over!

    Reply to this comment »
    • Doll Suz says:

      Man kimba, that pretty says it all!

      And yeah, you’re right – Terrible is the bomb. :D

      Reply to this comment »
  • Mona Leigh says:

    I’m spacing them out to make them last longer. I appreciate the flaws in our girl, and lust after Terrible and Lex. *drool*

    I’ve decided I’m going to have a to make a list of books in reading order or I’ll never get to my favorites.

    Thanks, Suz.

    Reply to this comment »
    • Doll Suz says:

      Mona, I can totally appreciate wanting to pace yourself to get every bit you can out of it. Just remember, Sacrificial Magic is coming out this week, and the next one is due out this summer! :)

      I was reading the Downside group on Goodreads and noticed Stacia mentioned she’s working on a short story/ novella that will be coming out sometime later in the year also, hopefully, that will give us more of Chess’ history, too. I’m very excited! :)

      Reply to this comment »