Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “I choose you. “
Chess Putnam once again finds herself caught between two rival crime lords when her drug dealer and boyfriend’s boss demands she use her skills at the scene of a violent murder that speaks of dark magic. Chess is also commanded by her Elder to investigate a haunting at a school that has already caused one debunker to disappear. Trust becomes an issue between her and Terrible when a former flame tries to instigate himself back in her life and her bed. As Chess slips deeper into the dark and twisted world of magic, drugs, and death, she will be forced to make the ultimate sacrifice. A sacrifice that will forever change her and those she loves.
Sacrificial Magic is the fourth book in Stacia Kane’s dark and disturbing urban fantasy series that takes the reader on an emotional heartbreaking journey into the life of a broken and battered young woman. A heavily character dominated series that finds the perfect balance between power and vulnerability. What makes this series is so unique is the make up of its heroine-Chess Putnam. While most fantasy protagonists have a dark past that shapes the dangerous person they become, Ms. Kane not only gave our heroine an abusive past but she continues to abuse herself and any strides she makes in overcoming that past are all made in spite of herself. Ms. Kane has done the impossible by making us care for a character who on the surface is not a likable person.
Each installment in the series gives us a deeper look at our heroine. Ms. Kane peels back the layers and lets us the see the making of Chess and the elements that made her what she is today. Not a pretty picture at times, Chess’s drug use and questionable decisions often leave you feeling battered and bruised as you struggle to understand the complicated mess that is her. She doesn’t believe that she deserves to be happy so she sabotages everything good in her life. The worse part of it all? She knows what she’s doing, yet is unable to stop. The first three books in this series were merely maps we followed to get to this point. To this story. In here Ms. Kane lays it all on the line and demands that Chess acknowledge and deal with her fears and desires.
The story line continues to fascinate; merging the past and present to create a dark and edgy world. As Chess investigates the murders and the school hauntings, she realizes that they are related and that she may be out of her element when she is forced to come up against powers that make a mockery of her own. Fast pacing and a smooth action packed storyline will hold you hostage as the plot heats up and you race to see what horrors Chess will have to face in her job and her personal life. It does start out a little slow as we flip abruptly between Chess’s insecurities and her investigation. It’s a convoluted plot line that takes a little while to build. Detailed and descriptive, you are instantly transported into Chess’s life and world without a single misstep. The dialog of the Downside is intoxicating; its particular cadence and rhythm lulling you into a false sense of security until once again the world shifts and you find yourself clawing your way out, desperately seeking solid ground.
The secondary characters grow in leaps and bounds, maintaining a vivid and dynamic presence. Each one is fully capable of holding their own story. I like that each have distinct, separate personalities; ensuring they are never overwhelmed by our protagonists. Terrible and Lex are two important parts of Chess’s life and they continue to both elevate and devastate her. Even though I am not a fan of love triangles, especially in urban fantasy, the bonds that exist between Chess, Terrible, and Lex are an integral part of the arc. Chess’s love for Terrible is a physical force that stuns you with the strength of it’s emotions. We have watched them go from enemies to lovers in a pain filled journey that defies the odds on what the heart can withstand. He is everything to her, but her relationship with Lex is as equally important. I cannot wait to see where Ms. Kane decides to take their relationship. As forces circle to once again bring Terrible and Lex together with Chess, we watch as her insecurities and self hatred come into play as she struggles to be part of a normal functioning relationship. A new character gives Chess a chance at true friendship that should prove very interesting should she choose to accept it. It’s just one more example of the character development that is happening here. She is evolving and expanding despite her self destructive personality.
The ending leaves you shocked and in tears as Ms. Kane ups the stakes in Chess’s life and forces her into a position that bodes well for no one. Sacrificial Magic is a force to be reckoned with and only enforces my belief that the Downside series is one of the top urban fantasy series out there to date. I do not recommend reading these as stand alones or starting the series here. The continuing arc and character development is long reaching and continues forward from book to book.
Overall Rating: A