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Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane
Review by Steve Sawicki
Del Rey Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345515575
Date: 25 May 2010 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Ceseria Putnam works for the church as a debunker. Since that day when the ghosts rose and wrecked havoc on the world, killing millions, all Gods are dead and there is no faith, only the truth of the church, which understands magic, ghosts, the afterlife and how things work. Oh yeah, they also run the underground city where spirits are sent--more of a jail than anything else really.

Cesaria, better known as Chess, has a few problems. First, she's a junkie, second she owes her dealer more than she makes, and, third, she's about to become involved in a world shaking plot that is way above her abilities and competencies. How she manages to pay her dealer back, who is willing to cancel her debt for a little magical help, keep her addictions and other issues hidden from her employer, the church, and figure out enough of the plot against the world to foil it will be her tasks over the next few days. She doesn't expect to sleep much. Which is another problem all together.

This is another entry into the supernatural urban fantasy with strong female protagonist who's somewhat broken but always manages to overcome genre. Probably the biggest issue is getting past the fact that the protagonist is such a major drug addict but still manages to function fairly well. The book also has a few other stereotypes: the well meaning hit man who's really a nice guy just brought up in the wrong way; the geek who grabs power as the only means to self; and the authority figures that are strong, wise but blind to everything going on around them. These aren't really bad things. Stereotypes often help us frame behavior and move forward more quickly. In terms of characterization it is often the short hand way to move plot. I happen to like more of a twist in these kinds of characters but they are put to good effect here.

I found this book to be quick paced, interesting in story, and pretty well plotted. Kane does a great job with moving her characters forward in a natural progression which also serves to get the reader from beginning to end. The world that she has created is a sort of post-apocalyptic reformed wasteland that has been repopulated by the leftovers of a natural (or supernatural) disaster. Language has changed a bit, the social structure is different, the way we view the world is different. Through all this Kane keeps her focus on the world that surrounds her protagonist and does not try to fill all gaps through expository lumps. Do we know what happened to the government? No. Do we ever see police? No. Is there a fairly normal world still out there? Can't really tell. But, none of these things matter because they do not interact with the world that the protagonist exists in. They must surround her but they do not impact upon her so we only see these slices through her eyes in ways that she would see them. This is well crafted writing. I would recommend the book. There are at least two more already in print so we are looking at a series here. Go. Find. Buy. Enjoy.

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