While the Megan Chase novels were exceptionally written and entertaining, they weren’t what I would call particularly innovative. The same cannot be said for Unholy Ghosts. This is an ambitious novel, a novel that shuns the formulaic pitfalls and conventionality of other bestselling paranormal fantasy sagas. This is Stacia Kane at the top of her game—it is a writer evolved, a storyteller matured, an imagination fully unleashed upon the world...
But before I get into the specifics of this extraordinary tale, let’s focus momentarily on what Del Rey has decided to do with this series. Because the publisher believes so strongly in this saga, they’re going to release the first three novels back-to-back-to-back. Unholy Ghosts was just released in June, Unholy Magic will be released in July, and City of Ghosts is coming out in August! It’s indeed the summer of Stacia—and I challenge anyone to read Unholy Ghosts and not be hopelessly hooked.
World-building usually isn’t a major strength in paranormal fantasy—most sagas create a perfunctory realm and then focus on the storyline. In Unholy Ghosts, the world-building is truly exceptional—set in and around Triumph City, the American headquarters of the Church, Kane does an impressive job not only laying down a richly detailed and realistic backstory that goes all the way back to WWI but also creating a vibrant and authentic near-future. She has even created a fascinating vernacular to go along with a meticulously described “After Truth” culture.
But as remarkable as the world building is, it’s the unconventional—and unforgettable—characters that fuel this storyline: two in particular. Chess Putnam is a junkie whose habit has gotten her into trouble with her dealer. In debt for thousands of dollars, Chess is forced to agree to help the dealer/pimp (named Bump) with a dangerous job that may involve illegal magic. Terrible is a muscular giant of an enforcer who works for Bump. He’s covered with tattoos and ritualistic scars and doesn’t talk much but when he is tasked to keep an eye on Chess, she uncovers another side to the seemingly cold-blooded killer.
A drug-addicted witch and an enigmatic killer. The dark, gritty characters—and dark, gritty ambiance, for that matter—is what kept me mesmerized throughout. There are literally dozens of “shiny happy” paranormal fantasy sagas on the shelves that are fueled by light-hearted storylines and PG-13 humor (and there’s nothing wrong with that) but if you’re looking for something deeper and darker, I would highly recommend this novel. I loved the (what some would consider) audacious premise; the downright tantalizing glimpses into the otherworldly City of Eternity; the cool, punk rock undertones (at one point Chess is wearing a Dead Kennedys t-shirt); and the wonderfully intricate mystery that intertwines it all together.
Dark, stylish, and wildly original, paranormal fantasy fans should seek out and read Unholy Ghosts—easily Stacia Kane’s most accomplished work to date.
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for almost the last two decades and has written more than 6,000 reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, and BarnesandNoble.com. In his free time, he reads.
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