Review of Stacia Kane’s Downside series (I’ve got Terrible Fever!)
I’ve had the first 3 books in this series for some time. I’ve read many rave reviews but was hesitant to start because the heroine, Chess Putnam, is a drug addict. I have very little tolerance for people like that so I kept moving the books to the bottom of my TBR shelf. Finally, I decided to rip the band-aid off and give the series a try. This was not an easy series to read but I’m so glad I did.
Chess owns her addiction and I don’t think I would have made it past book one if she didn’t. Her reasons behind the use are tragic and taking the drugs is what helps push her demons back enough to function. I’m not condoning drug use but it’s part of her so as a reader you can be against this and put the books down or accept it and continue on. I obviously chose the latter.
Before talking about Chess, let’s get into a little background about the series. In 1997, ghosts rose up and killed so many people that survivors turned to the Church to save them. Now, the Church of Truth and Fact is the law. Ghosts still remain so the Church trains those with an affinity to magic to either debunk a haunting or banish the spirit. Chess is a debunker for the Church, think witch meets ghostbuster, and has managed to keep her addiction a secret from them. In her spare time, she reluctantly starts doing ghost related work for her dealer Bump and his rival’s son, Lex.
Chess starts the series out with a physical relationship with Lex but it’s the one she comes to share with Bump’s enforcer Terrible that’s the stand out in these books. Like Chess, Terrible is anything but perfect and I’m not just talking about his mutton chops, crooked nose, and bowling shirts. It’s his job to do Bump’s dirty work and he’s very good at it. Despite all this, I’m hopelessly in love with him. He doesn’t bring Chess roses or chocolates or whisper sweet words. Rather, he accepts her as she is and I believe if she’d stop being so hard headed and scared and would open up to him, he could help heal old wounds that she takes pills and powders hoping to forget. He can be brash and terrifying yet caring in the best way he knows how. He’s the most perfect imperfect hero I’ve ever fallen for.
Back to Chess *sigh*. I don’t think any heroine has ever made me want to slap her and hug her at the same time as much as Chess. Her issues have issues but she’s a better person than she gives herself credit for. Despite the drugs, she’s good at what she does and has a relatively successful career yet it’s her personal life that takes center stage. She’s experienced abuse on every level and has no idea what a healthy relationship is. It’s all done a number on her confidence and though I don’t doubt she loves Terrible, she makes bad judgment calls and is her own worst enemy. She’s a decent human being; she just has an odd way of showing it. Again, I’ve never wanted to smack and hug a character while reassuring them everything is going to be alright like I have Chess.
The rundown section of Triumph City known as Downside is where the action takes place. The details the author weaves into each page, from the stench of the streets to the rundown buildings and beggar children who are as much of a threat to your valuables as the adults they’ll likely grow up to be, is amazing and allows the reader to effortlessly imagine Chess and Terrible chasing down a possessed druggie or murderous ghosts of former prostitutes.
This series holds no punches. It’s gritty, full of addictive characters and unique plots, and unlike anything I’ve read before. Chess and Terrible, with every one of their faults, are incredible. This is a prime example of Urban Fantasy done right and if you’re up to the emotionally draining trip into Downside, you won’t be able to get enough.