Chasing Magic (Downside #5) by Stacia Kane
June 26, 2012
Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “It was goodbye, just in case. It was a memory being made, words going unsaid.“
There are some tiny spoilers in here from previous books so if you haven’t read them you have been warned.
Every action requires payment; a valuable lesson that Chess is forced to learn in the fifth installment of Stacia Kane’s dark and addictive urban fantasy series, The Downside. Continuing to be heavily character dominated, we are firmly entrenched into the lives of churchwitch and addict Chess Putnam, her drug enforcer lover, Terrible, and rival enforcer turned drug lord, Lex. Not long has passed since Sacrificial Magic so Chess is still recovering from her experience and worrying over the ramifications of Lex taking over his father’s drug empire. With Lex becoming more powerful, it places Terrible directly into his crosshairs. Terrible will have to make a choice, and the wrong one could place him six feet under.
Chess must answer for saving Terrible’s life in City of Ghosts and the price is almost more then she can bear. Her past continues to write her future and you find yourself despairing; what more will Chess have to endure in order to forgive herself. The drug abuse is consistent though I did think she was beginning to get a handle on it. There were times when I wanted her to see what she was doing to herself and others but Ms. Kane shows us that a drug addict never sees the big picture. In here, we are shown just how deep Chess’s addiction is. This is not a situation that will be cured in a few installments; if ever. The drugs are a physical part of her. She can not function without them and when it becomes obvious that her addiction will be the bait to trap a dangerous killer, we know her crutch is here to stay, for now.
The story lines fascinate; merging the past and present to create a dark world with razor sharp edges. As Chess investigates the murders and dark magic being thrown at the city’s drug users, Chess realizes that her own life could become forfeit. Fast pacing and a smooth action packed storyline will hold you hostage as the plot heats up and you race to see what new horrors Chess will have to face. The beginning is slow to understand as Ms. Kane builds intricate plot lines that weaves this storyline into the ever expanding arc. It’s convoluted and 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 particularly thrilling though I did notice that Terrible seems to be switching between downspeak and sounding more like Chess. I personally enjoy the downspeak (the dialect of the Downside) cadence and rhythm. It’s a unique twist to this series.
The secondary characters continue to develop, maintaining vivid and dynamic presences. I like that each have distinct, separate personalities; ensuring they are never overwhelmed by our protagonists. Terrible and Lex continue to be important entities Chess’s life. The ties that bind Chess, Terrible, and Lex are an integral part of the arc and in here Ms. Kane tests the strength of those ties. Chess also begin to understand the difference in those ties for probably the first time. Chess’s love for Terrible is an overwhelmingly, devastating, and sometimes a destructive force that exhilarates and frightens you. 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 and would do anything for him, as proven.
Terrible. The only man in the world who made her feel…like she was okay, like she could be happy. The only one who understood her. The only one who loved her.
The only one, period.
She would not leave him. She refused to leave him.
I like that Terrible begins to exert some real pressure on their relationship, asking things from Chess beyond the physical aspects. Demanding more from her than anyone else ever has. As forces circle once again to bring Terrible and Lex together with Chess, we see her insecurities and self hatred rise in attempts to sabotage her relationships.
She was still who she was, after all. A junkie, a liar, someone who didn’t know how to have a relationship, someone who didn’t deserve whatever happiness she managed to find. Someone terrified that she was going to fuck this up like she did everything else.
The ending is an explosive culmination of events that leaves you reeling and exhausted. Chasing Magic only reinforces that Kane’s Downside series continues to be one of my top urban fantasy series picks. I do not recommend reading this as a standalone or starting the series here. The arc and continuous character development is long reaching and moves forward from book to book.
Overall Rating: B+