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City of Ghosts - Stacia Kane

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Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Author: Stacia Kane / Paperback / 416 Pages / Book is published 2010-08-05 by Harper Voyager

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      24.08.2010 14:41
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      I'm sad that I've finished it...

      ** I strongly advise reading Unholy Ghosts and Unholy Magic before reading CITY OF GHOSTS as characters names from the earlier books come up from time to time, the characters relationships are complicated and gaining an understanding to the background of 'The Church' is needed to fully understand the rules here and the way things work **



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      Basic background info
      (No major spoilers)
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      In 1997 every ghost in the world raised up and killed two thirds of the population in just one week. World leaders were powerless, prayers went unanswered, resulting in every government and religion collapsing. Eventually a group were able to imprison most of the ghosts in a huge underground city - they called their organization The Church Of Real Truth.

      The Church Of Real Truth is today the world's only power; there is no other government, no other faith, just The Church. They are in the process of hunting the ghosts that remain uncaptured and compensating the unlucky people being haunted. To find the ghosts the Church educates and trains witches [known as debunkers] to find and capture the ghosts, and find the fraudsters faking a haunting to try and defraud money out of the Church.


      Cesaria 'Chess' Putnam is one of these debunkers. In fact her recent work on previous cases has put her in high esteem of her superiors. But what they don't know is that she has been leading a double life of sorts. She has a drug addiction and her drug dealer [Bump] views her as one of his lackeys that shall do his bidding for him whenever he so chooses.

      Aside from hiding her drug addiction from her employees, Chess is also hiding something from Bump; Her involvement with a rival drug dealer's enforcer - Lex - who has been supplying her with free drugs. As her life becomes more complicated and she has to lie on a regular basis and keep more and more secrets, she takes an increasing amount of drugs to drown her feelings, thoughts and self-disgust.


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      In a nutshell
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      The church offers Chess a chance to work with the elite Black Squad agency [similar to a FBI type of agency]- but until she agrees to take the case and undergo a magical binding [a magical gagging order] none of the details will be shared with her. Her first instinct is to refuse; She'd have to work with Lauren, the squad's leader who Chess takes an instant dislike to and there's the small matter of the magical bind, which will cause her death if she talks about the case with people who aren't authorized. But she is offered a generous bonus, so - having a growing addiction to handle - she agrees to take the case.

      So this is why Chess is now hunting a group who uses black magic, leaves mutilated bodies all over town and who are plotting to overthrow The Church. Seeing as Chess has no luck but bad luck Bump quickly learns how she has been leading Black Squad members over his turf and demands to know what's going on, dragging Chess into even more trouble when she can't tell him. Just when she thinks that life can't get any worse it does; Bump orders Terrible to stick close to Chess and report back to him. Normally Chess would find working closely with Terrible enjoyable, but he now hates her with a passion and if he's not ignoring her he's verbally abusing her.

      It looks like it's going to be one hell of a case...


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      My opinion
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      The plot layout for CITY OF GHOSTS is different to the earlier books in that there is only one case Chess is working - before she always had one professional case and one secret one running parallel to each other. This means that the author was able to spend more time fleshing out all of the secondary characters and make the villains even more menacing.

      The concept of a magical binding is also used to full advantage; It adds real tension to the story as Chess is unable to warn anyone about the
      impending danger when no-one she's working with takes her suspicions seriously. This also provides a realistic reason for her to keep working the case when most other people would run - She's the only person who can see the threat and can literally save the world.


      Chess herself isn't someone I should like and root for, but I do. Even as she gobbles her drugs like smarties, uses people for sex and hurts the only person who has looked out for her. It speaks volumes for Stacia Kane's writing ability that I still want to see Chess come out on top. I also love that chess isn't the best of the best at her job, she doesn't do Buffy-style roundhouse kicks and she doesn't have mystical powers developing here, there and everywhere. She has numerous flaws and makes mistakes, shes human.

      but I think Chess comes second to Terrible this time around. He's also someone I shouldn't like; He's the enforcer for Chess' drug dealer, so terrorises and beats on people for the money they owe Bump, he admits that he has killed people and is drinking through the job with Chess, childishly ignoring and snubbing her in life-or-death situations. But through it all his hurt, insecurities and feelings of being betrayed are plain to see and I just want to give him a big hug.

      I never took to the character Lex in the first two books; But this time I do feel a bit of sympathy for him. I suspect that he may have been using Chess, but she has been using him too; She uses sex to empty her mind and experience the highs - pretty much the same way she uses drugs. I'm left wondering if maybe he has developed feelings for her, whilst she has spent all of the time pining for another man?


      I found the two earlier books perfect, but CITY OF GHOSTS has blown them out of the water. It's been a while since I've been this excited over an UF [urban fiction] book (the genre is overcrowded with samey books) and was counting down the days to release; That this series hasn't been more popular is a crime.



      ** The Downside Ghosts was originally a trilogy, but Stacia has recently confirmed that she is writing a 4h and 5h book for the series for her US publishers. No exact release date yet, but it's planned for autumn 2011/spring 2012. I don't know if they'll be published in the UK, as the series hasn't been as popular here **

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