Untitled Downside Ghosts

Untitled Downside Ghosts - Stacia Kane Sacrificial Magic blew me away. The book blew my mind, or I guess Stacia Kane did. I am not sure I even have enough brain matter to write up my thoughts. What got to me in this book is not just the pure awesomeness of the world created by Ms. Kane, or the desirableness of Terrible or the clever mystery woven through the emotional grenades going off in the story. What got to me is that Kane gets how adults act in sexual and romantic relationships. Readers and fans of the Downside Ghosts series will not be disappointed with Sacrificial Magic. Kane writes a meaty and rich mystery and she gives readers more details about the Church and its history. Additionally, we get some character and relationship progression with both Chess and Chess’s relationships with Lex and Terrible.Chess is fucked up in Sacrificial Magic. She is taking drugs and she hits what I thought was rock bottom. What I was hoping was rock bottom. But despite this pain and difficult subject matter the book is also funny, so damned funny. “The door opened with a creak right out of a horror film. For fuck’s sake, was the school budget really so tight they couldn’t afford a can of fucking WD-40?” Or this one, ” ‘Green tea. It’s unsweetened, it’s good for you. Cleans the blood, gets rid of impurities.’ For fuck’s sake. She didn’t spend most of her income on drugs so she could have clean fucking blood.” Or how about this one, ”She probably wasn’t supposed to smoke there, but what the hell. The kids were.” Funny, right? Despite crying for Chess or cheering for Chess, I spent a good deal of time laughing in this book.Okay, back to the relationship aspect. Chess makes some bad choices in Sacrificial Magic and we could say that this happens, because well Chess is messed up. But I am not sure that is entirely the case. At the start of the series, Chess is involved with Lex. Then she becomes involved with Terrible. Then she is with both of them. Ultimately she chooses Terrible. In most romances and in most books in the urban fantasy genre, writers would have us believe that by simply making the choice to be with one person the desire to be with anyone else goes away – it disappears. Doesn’t it? Yeah, in a perfect world or in a fantasy romance novel those feelings go away. I think the reality is that as adults in relationships we make the affirmative choice to not be with people other than our partner. It is a daily choice, sometimes an hourly choice. The liking of other people and the good memories we have in terms of our past with other people do not just disappear. Isn’t that more of an act of love? To affirmatively choose to be faithful and honest everday? I think so. So Chess is still learning this. She is learning that she has choices and she is learning how to make those choices. Kane captures this tension between wanting to do what is right by a partner and the remembering of desire. I love that she is brave enough to write this into a character and into a female character. Beyond just this tension of making the right decision, Kane writes the ups and downs of a romantic relationship pretty darned well. Most of the readers are likely not hitting rock bottom like Chess and they are not making crazed drug induced decisions. And hopefully we are not in relationships with people who are acting like Chess. But, many of us have disagreements with our partners. It just seems that in the romance genre, when couples fight and they get back together there is this immediate simpatico and acceptance; but is that real? Yes couples make up, but the residual of what we went through sticks with us. Kane gets this. So I don’t think this is a spoiler – Chess and Terrible fight and they reconcile (and they fight and they …) but once reconciled all is not perfect. Chess and Terrible bring different experiences and different expectations to their relationship and to each disagreement. When they walk away form a resolution – they are walking away with those different informed understandings. I love that Kane did not wave her magical writer’s wand and fix everything to be perfect. There are rough patches because that is what real life is and I love reading Kane’s interpretation of how messed up adults navigate this.Sacrificial Magic gives readers quite a bit of history on Chess’s past and her childhood. These experiences are there in her memories and the past is painful, horrible stuff. Poor Chess, I wish I could hug her but well, I think that would make her uncomfortable, “What was the last time anyone other than Terrible or Lex had touched her? Kind of odd, really. How often did people touch each other? Was that normal, to just touch someone like that?” Chess I cry for you and I cry for people who are hurt like you. Some excerpts of thoughts from Chess’s running commentary in her head:“Nothing in the world was permanent, especially not happiness.”***“That was the way normal people felt when they were trying to move up, when they’d found someone to love who loved them back. Not the way Chess felt, like she was trying to stem an arterial bleed with her fingertip.But then, normal people didn’t start their relationships by fucking people over, and normal people weren’t convinced that at any moment the person they were with was going to realize how completely worthless they were and run away as fast as they could. Normal people didn’t deserve to have the person they were with run away as fast as they could. So that might make the difference.”“Hadn’t she known pretty much all of her life that her only real value came from what hid between her legs?”The entire book of Sacrificial Magic is supremely satisfying to read. Yes, there are parts that will make you mad at Chess and parts that will make your heart weep for her childhood. But there are parts that will give us hope that Chess may find her way (if she could just lose that damned bottle of Cepts …)To see the rest of this review and more like it, check out my reviews at: www.badassbookreviews.com