Expected Publication Date: June 26, 2012
A DEADLY HIGH
Magic-wielding Churchwitch and secret addict Chess Putnam knows better than anyone just how high a price people are willing to pay for a chemical rush. But when someone with money to burn and a penchant for black magic starts tampering with Downside’s drug supply, Chess realizes that the unlucky customers are paying with their souls—and taking the innocent with them, as the magic-infused speed compels them to kill in the most gruesome ways possible.
As if the streets weren’t scary enough, the looming war between the two men in her life explodes, taking even more casualties and putting Chess squarely in the middle. Downside could become a literal ghost town if Chess doesn’t find a way to stop both the war and the dark wave of death-magic, and the only way to do that is to use both her addiction and her power to enter the spell and chase the magic all the way back to its malevolent source. Too bad that doing so will probably kill Chess—if the war doesn’t first destroy the man who’s become her reason for living.
With each and every novel Stacia Kane writes, my admiration and respect for her as an author increases. The Downside Ghosts books just keep getting better and better. The overall story arc moves forward in steady and believable ways, while each book has a new and fresh mystery. Her characters grow and develop; they change, whether for better or worse. New elements of the character's lives and personalities, or the world in which they live, are unveiled; but the revelations always feel like natural progressions from what we already know and expect. She also keeps upping the stakes for Chess and Terrible. Given the nature of their occupations and recreational activities, as the reader you know everything is going to have to come crumbling down at some point.
That is why, to me, Chasing Magic was written just perfectly. Chess has slowly made some really big, life changing choices, especially in City of Ghosts and Sacrificial Magic. However, she had yet to feel many of the effects of those changes in her daily life. She was struggling to maintain multiple different conflicting versions of herself, and it was completely unsustainable. Maintaining a friendship with Lex while working for Bump (and dating Terrible). Thrilling in her competency as a witch (and being present in her relationship with Terrible) while seeking ever deeper oblivion with drugs. Living in Downside while working for the Church. Wanting and needing Elder Griffin's high opinion and respect while perpetually violating his trust. Enforcing Church laws while breaking them herself. Something had to give.
What I love most about Chasing Magic is that -- for the first time in her life -- gut-wrenchingly horrible things have happened to Chess, but this time she had a choice. She is able to have the pride and confidence that comes with knowing that, though you have lost something, you chose to give it up for something better, more worthwhile. Chess is really forced to look at herself in Chasing Magic; she is forced to grow up and mature in ways I have been hoping for but dared not expect. I loved this book, and cannot imagine how I will get through the wait for the next one.
All that time, this was what she had been scared of. And as she stood there looking into his eyes, seeing the dampness of hers echoed there, she understood -- fully understood for the first time -- that what she was truly afraid of was that if she could be happy, if she could love someone and be loved back, that meant maybe she wasn't as bad as she'd always thought. Maybe she was worth something, and if she was worth something, it might mean making some changes.
5 of 5 stars
This review also appears on Goodreads; I was generously provided with an advance review copy by the publisher.