Sacrificial Magic by Stacia Kane

rating (Downside Ghosts, Book #4)
Urban Fantasy


When Chess Putnam is ordered by an infamous crime boss—who also happens to be her drug dealer—to use her powers as a witch to solve a grisly murder involving dark magic, she knows she must rise to the challenge. Adding to the intensity: Chess’s boyfriend, Terrible, doesn’t trust her, and Lex, the son of a rival crime lord, is trying to reignite the sparks between him and Chess.

Plus there’s the little matter of Chess’s real job as a ghost hunter for the Church of Real Truth, investigating reports of a haunting at a school in the heart of Downside. Someone seems to be taking a crash course in summoning the dead—and if Chess doesn’t watch her back, she may soon be joining their ranks.

As Chess is drawn into a shadowy world of twisted secrets and dark violence, it soon becomes clear that she’s not going to emerge from its depths without making the ultimate sacrifice.

Ah, the long awaited book to arrive. Was a chore to get this one. I ordered it the first time and after waiting almost two weeks, was sent the wrong book! The second time, I ordered it with a pre-order and noted to ship separately but they did not, so I had to wait for the fifth book to be released and then for it to all finally arrive. When finally here I gobbled it in record speed.

Again Chess is an emotional mess dealing with her past, which we get more glimpses of, and continued drug excessiveness as she deals with anxiety and pain over her new-found relationship. There is more emotional angst and relationship stuff in this one by far. The story itself is one of the more intriguing of the series, with the unusual setting of a school as a background. The beginning started out clever with the mystery of the missing debunker and set-up of the unusual players. Pacing never let up in the relationship department but the author did let the story take a small backseat sometimes. The ending battle was awesome. Also, there was plenty of sweetness with Elder Griffin.

In almost every story, book, movie, play, production, you name it, for the story to continue the character has to start changing and evolving. Most of the time the change is for the better, occasionally for the worst. Chess is finally starting to grow a bit. She's as addicted as ever to the drugs and there's still no end in sight, even in her thoughts she's not considering quitting. I'm pleased to see her confidence is boosting ever so slightly every once in awhile - she's still a low self esteem mess waiting for the other shoe to drop and "her" to ruin her relationships with the few she cares about, waiting for them to see the real her and how horrible she is and turn away like everyone has done before her.

Out of all the books, this is probably the most introspective and angst-filled of the series. Not quite as good as book three, but still a more than rewarding read, this series continues it's dark, unsettling journey into a mysterious end-road that I can't even begin to guess at yet.

I really liked the school setting in this one for the mystery! The accidents, the location, the interactions between the characters and the surprise of who one of them turns out being, all helped to keep the action in this one going. Good stuff and setting.

The ending note clearly sets up for some upcoming wars between Lex and the rest, sprucing up the unusual triangle Chess, Lex, and Terrible have going down. I did knock this down as a star as I thought the angst was a little heavy and sacrificed the story slightly, but overall another great addition to the series, making it unusual, gritty, and addictive.

   Book Quotes:

“It was her problem, and she'd deal with it. Because dealing with personal problems was so fucking high on her list of skills.” 

“Yes, Lex was her friend. Yes, she wanted to help him out. But Terrible … he wasn’t her friend, he was her life.” 

   Reviews of the Series: