Downside Ghosts #1
Published 2010 by Del Rey (Random House)
Unholy Ghosts is a compelling start to a dark urban fantasy. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for something on the grittier side.
Churchwitch Chess Putnam has a secret. A Debunker for the Church of Real Truth, she investigates hauntings, exposing the fakes and banishing real ghosts. She's definitely not supposed to be in debt to a powerful drug lord, so when he offers her the option of trading an off-the-books investigation for a debt she doesn't have the money to pay, she doesn't have any choice but to look into his case. Unfortunately she finds quite a bit more than she bargained for.
Unholy Ghosts starts with a fascinating world. After the dead broke free of their City and wreaked havoc on the living world, killing thousands. the Church of Real Truth rose to power, disdaining the old religions and using powerful magic to banish ghosts. Now the Church rules through the strength of its witches in holding back the dead. Usually post-magical awakening worlds look either very similar to ours or are without a central power, so it was interesting to read about a different structure, particularly one as interesting as this one.
I was surprised to find this book written in third person – the trend is for urban fantasy to be in first and paranormal romance in third – but although Unholy Ghosts leans heavily on the urban fantasy side, third person works. Chess isn't the type to reveal many of her innermost thoughts. She has a seriously screwed-up past that gains her sympathy despite the gratuitous drug use. At first this aspect of Chess's character was annoying, but as I learned more about Chess and her history, it became a little more understandable. Plus, Chess has a lot of room to grow; I can already tell that the character development in this series is going to be stellar, though it hasn't gotten far yet.
Chess is surrounded by an intriguing cast of characters. Terrible, drug lord Bump's enforcer, turned out to be a surprisingly excellent character, something I would never have guessed at first glance. I'm eager to learn more about him as well as to see more of his and Chess's interactions. Bump's rival drug mogul Lex was Bump's urbane opposite, suave and controlled where Bump was erratic and a little crazy. The Church played a fairly minor role in this book, at least considering its influence, so I'm looking forward to finding out more about its members.
I can't wait to check out the rest of the books in this series. Unholy Ghosts is a highly promising start to what should be a great series.
PNR or UF?
GARS score: 1.4 (3/4/2/3)
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