ARC Review: Sacrificial Magic by Stacia Kane
READING, WRITING, AND RAISING THE DEAD
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.