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Sacrificial Magic (Downside Ghosts Series #4)

Sacrificial Magic (Downside Ghosts Series #4)

4.7 54
by Stacia Kane

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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,


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.

From the Paperback edition.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Downside Ghosts Series , #4
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Random House
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3 MB

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Chapter One

Only the bravest fight the dead. —­Grand Elder Thomas, speech to graduating students, 2007 Had the roof over her head not been a broken mess, shredded insulation and pieces of tile dangling like the rotting innards of the living thing it had once been, she wouldn’t be getting hit on the head with cold droplets of water at odd, annoying intervals.

That would have made her happier. Or at least not quite as unhappy. Nothing could have made her happy at that moment, when she was about to wander down a dark hall where a ghost lurked and hopefully manage to freeze it before it sliced off her head or stabbed her or whatever the hell else it planned to do. The odds of a ghost in this corpse of a building not having a weapon were—­well, hell, there were no odds at all. Only the dumbest ghost on the planet wouldn’t have found some sort of weapon in this ramshackle palace of destruction, where her boots sloshed through a good two inches of foul water, broken glass, metal shards, pulped books, and who the fuck knew what else.

“Think it’s in there, Chess?” Riley Martin, a brand-­ new Debunker, pointed toward the mouth of the hallway ahead. In there the ceiling had apparently ­maintained its integrity; the hall was only shadows, a dark tunnel straight to the grave. Or rather the Crematorium, and the City of Eternity. None of which really sounded like a fun way to end her evening.

But neither did leaving the ghost here to kill other people, or telling the Church she’d decided to fuck off to the bar instead of doing her job. “Probably. No, don’t turn your light on yet. Try not to if you can help it. Let’s go stand right inside until our eyes adjust, okay?”

Riley nodded. Chess followed him, neither of them bothering to keep their movements quiet. If they could somehow attract the spirit, draw it out, that would be easier and safer. The last thing either of them wanted to do was to walk into some kind of ambush.

Fucking Lamaru. Fucking Arthur Maguinness-­Beldarel shithead. If they hadn’t played their stupid power games and set a bunch of ghosts free the month before, she wouldn’t be out here doing something that technically wasn’t her job but that every Church employee capable of doing it had to do at least one night a week when they weren’t otherwise engaged or on a case.

Which Chess wasn’t. Damn it.

They stopped in the shadows; the almost imperceptible breeze hadn’t penetrated there at all, so the horrible ammoniac stench, full of mold and worse, assaulted her nose the second they entered the hall. Her eyes stung.

But more than that, a warm tingling sensation began crawling up her arms and across her chest as her magical tattoos reacted to the presence of a spirit. A ghost was definitely nearby. She looked at Riley. “Are you feeling it?”

“I—­ I don’t know. My skin feels kind of funny.” What little of his face she could make out didn’t look happy.

“You get used to it.”

A flash of light down the hall, so fast she only saw it out of the corner of her eye. But it had definitely been light, and it had definitely been the bluish light of a ghost.

Riley’s breath caught. This was the time that, if she was a normal sort of person, she’d be able to say something reassuring and at the same time cool, the kind of thing that would make Riley feel brave but not patronized. And then they’d both sort of smile and head off down the hall to Banish that ghost.

But she was not that kind of person, and the last thing she had any idea how to do was reassure Riley and make him feel good about himself. Cliché was probably about the best she could do.

“You’ll be fine,” was the one she gave him, and to her surprise it seemed to work. “Come on.”

Every step they took, every slow step through the soup of bacteria and rot sucking at her boots brought them closer to that faint death-­glow. She’d mixed some graveyard dirt and asafetida earlier, stuck it in a bag in her pocket; now she reached inside and grabbed a small handful. Ready.

They moved a few steps in silence broken only by the occasional plonk of water dripping from the ceiling behind them. Something rattled. Chess spun around to look but saw nothing.

Ghosts weren’t the only things that might hang out in abandoned buildings at night. They weren’t in Downside, no, but they weren’t exactly in the nicest area, either. This building, which had once housed offices of some kind and a warehouse, stood just a few streets into Cross Town, a whole city block of condemned cement with a ten-­foot chain-­link fence around it.

A chain-­link fence with holes in it. She wondered how many neighborhood kids had made this their weekend hangout until two nights before, when one of them met a gruesome death just inside the front doors.

Another tiny glimpse of light.

“It is a ghost, right?” Riley whispered. “I mean, I feel like there’s a ghost here, but could that be something else?”

“It could be anything else. But it’s probably a ghost, yeah.”

The comforting weight of her knife sat in her pocket. Debunkers weren’t supposed to be armed. Fuck that. She’d rather take her chances with Church discipline than with anyone or anything she might come across in a place like this.

She probably wouldn’t need the knife anyway. Damn it, the kid’s nervousness was making her twitch, and as much as she sympathized with him she really didn’t need that at the moment. It had been a good two hours since she’d taken her pills, and while she still had time—­she wasn’t worried—­places like this didn’t help her keep calm. All that filth, all those germs, soaking into the bottoms of her jeans, brushing against her skin, her hair, invading her lungs. People caught diseases from places like this, especially after a rain.

Or they got their throats sliced open by ghosts armed with rusted shards of metal or whatever the fuck else. She edged her way down the hall, her back pressed against that gross excuse for a wall just because she couldn’t really see well enough to walk down the center. The glow got stronger with every step. Her fist clenched around the dirt.

Another plonk. Another rattle. Something like a whis­per, that could have been a voice or the sound of a makeshift blade leaving its sheath of soaked pulp or crumbled cement. The glow from a doorway another ten feet or so down the hall.

In its reflection, Riley’s face looked even paler. The only thing keeping hers from looking the same—­assuming it didn’t, which she was just going to go ahead and assume—­was the fact that she was still just high enough to be not quite as scared as she should be. And the fact that she was an absolute fucking expert at lying to herself.

But with every step closer to that glowing doorway, that ability drew just a tiny bit farther away from her.

Whatever. Wasn’t like she could just turn around and run. So she took one last deep breath and spun around the doorframe with her arm ready to throw the dirt at the first dead thing that moved.

And found herself staring at three teenagers, who were obviously very alive, and who obviously thought they’d done something very clever, and who should have been thanking the gods who didn’t exist that Riley was there too because if he hadn’t been she would have been very tempted to beat the shit out of them with the nearest heavy object.

“What are you doing here?” Riley asked, but it was obvious from the stunned looks on their faces. Whoever they’d been expecting to walk through that door, it wasn’t two Church employees.

One of them glanced at the other two, and cleared his throat when they didn’t speak up. Fucking cowards. “We, uh, we thought you were some friends of ours.”

Damn it, why were her tattoos still tingling, if a ghost wasn’t in this room? This didn’t feel right, not at all. She needed to get those little bastards out of there as quickly as possible. “You need to leave, okay? Time to go.”

“We’ve been in here for like an hour,” the kid replied. The flashlight he’d hidden under his dark-blue jacket still glowed, made him glow. That’s where that bluish light had come from, she guessed, but nothing about these kids should have been setting off the alarms in her tattoos. Something else was around, waiting. “We haven’t seen anything.”

“Oh, right. That must mean nothing is here. This is such a small building.” She stepped sideways from the door; Riley, she was pleased to see, had already taken a step back into the hall. “Go on, get out of here.”

“But we can help you,” the first guy started.

Started, but didn’t get to finish. Because before the last word hit the air, the ghosts—­who’d clearly been waiting for just this sort of noisy fun—­slipped through the walls. Four of them.

And thanks to the debris and shit on the floor, including what appeared to be a damned cigarette lighter sitting on top of a backpack tucked against one of the drier sections of wall, they were ghosts with weapons.

Chess started to throw her dirt, put as much power behind it as she could, but missed as the teenagers freaked out and started running. One of them knocked her against the wall; another bounced off her and tumbled back. The third . . . the third had a face half obscured by blood, presumably from the chunk of concrete the ghost beside it was readying for another swing.

The kids screamed. Riley yelled something. Chess fought the rising tides of fear and irritation and grabbed another handful of dirt.

Go for the concrete-­wielding ghost first, because if it smacked that kid again there’d be a nice layer of brains added to the general slime and mess on the floor. She managed to freeze that one, glanced around to see Riley doing the same with another.

That left two. Two ghosts and three teenagers who really should have fucking known better crowded into that small space. There was barely room to move in there, much less do anything else, and two of the ghosts were still mobile.

Flames erupted in the corner of her vision. That backpack had apparently been filled with papers—­of course it was, they were high school kids—­and one of the ghosts had set the whole thing alight. It threw the flaming sack at her.

She ducked, and slipped in the vile sludge covering the floor. Eeew. Cold water—­and who knew what else, probably blood and urine and vomit—­soaked her jeans.

Meet the Author

Stacia Kane has been a phone psychic, a customer service representative, a bartender, and a movie theater usher, and she thinks that writing is more fun than all of them combined. She wears a lot of black, still makes great cocktails, likes to play music loud in the car, and thinks Die Hard is one of the greatest movies ever made. She believes in dragons and the divine right of kings, and is a fervent Ricardian. Stacia Kane lives outside Atlanta with her husband and their two little girls.

From the Paperback edition.

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Sacrificial Magic 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it and can't wait for more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was just beautiful. Ms.Kane truly has a gift for making you love the underdog. This was fantastic.
Ozzy12 More than 1 year ago
This book was great, at times very heartbreaking and detailed. loved it. can't wait for the next one
sl75 More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing. I still find this series fresh and exciting at book 4. I love Chess...she is truly a unique character...ALL of Ms. Kane's are TRULY unique. There is nothing out there like this...and I read a lot of urban/fantasy/sci fi series. Loved it...can't wait for Book #5!
RomanceaholicBR More than 1 year ago
This book broke my heart. It did. Broke it into tiny little pieces, scattering on the ground as I read. And yet, I loved it, just as I’ve loved the first three books in the series. It was thrilling. It was emotional. It was completely devastating, and the ending changed EVERYTHING. Overall, I of course adored it. Chess’ self-hatred and self-sabotage did start to grate on me towards the end, which I admit almost kept it from being a 5-star read, but the ending was absolutely amazing and the setup for the next story has me frothing at the mouth at the thought of having to wait until June to read it, which more than made up for any irritation I might have had with Chess. (Title received at no charge via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Review originally appeared on The Romanceaholic)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love Chess and Terrible!!! One of the best Urban Fantasy series out right now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She is one of my favorite heroines ever. She is raw, gritty, flawed, and real. I can't get enough.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
5 star
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Characters felt real and story line kept me turning pages. Another winner for Briggs
Kristas_Dust_Jacket More than 1 year ago
Another incredibly powerful installment in the Downside Ghosts series. Each new book adds a new layer to the tragic, complex and beautiful Chess Putnam. She is more than just a church witch, a junkie, Terrible's lover, resident of Triumph City, friend - she's the sum of all her parts, which adds up to one of the most fascinating characters I've ever read about. I cannot get enough of Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts series. Each new book is more innovative, creative, emotional and impactful than the one before it. And, Terrible... I mean, what can I really say about this hero that comes close to doing him justice? Prepare for a bit of fangirling and babbling. In Sacrificial Magic, Chess' newest case from the Church takes her back to school. A school in Slobag's territory has reported a haunting and, after the first debunker assigned to the case flakes and runs off, Elder Griffin passes it off to Chess. Unfortunately, that means she'll be spending lots of time on Lex's side of town, which is what she does NOT need now as she's trying to rebuild Terrible's trust in her. To make Chess' plate even fuller, there are other ritualistic murders being committed on Bump's side, and it looks like a snitch in his ranks is partially responsible, and Bump wants her to get to the bottom of it. We've slowly had a picture of Chess and her past painted over the course of the last three books in the Downside Ghosts series. We know now that she was passed around from foster home to foster home, and horribly abused in most of them - mostly by the men. Chess has learned to rely only on herself and her pills and that has served her well. Until Terrible entered her life. Now, she's in love and while it should be a completely wonderful thing, it instead has heaped stress in spades upon her life. Chess has to come to terms with the fact that she gives a crap about someone. She's never cared about anyone before. Not even herself. Hell - probably least of all herself. But, she loves Terrible fiercely, and Chess doesn't know what to do with all those feelings. She over-analyzes everything Terrible says and does to the point where it all gets twisted in her brain to some unrecognizable version of the truth. She second-guesses herself all the time. Should I tell him I love him? Should I touch him now? Would he want me to? Should I call him, or will that seem too needy? OMG - it was sad and painful to read how little credit Chess gives herself. And, Terrible - man, I love him to pieces. But, the dude is not a conversationalist. And, honestly, sometimes I think he's not much better than Chess at all this relationship stuff. Together, they're like the blind leading the blind, and it makes for some seriously tense situations. Not to mention the fact that Terrible is still trying to come to terms with Chess' prior relationship with Lex and her ongoing friendship with him. Lex is always the elephant in the room. Chess and Terrible have some horrible fights and say some awful things to one another before they finally cut through the crap and are truly honest with one another. Those fights made my heart hurt. But, the making up... now that was one of my favorite parts. ;) The thing that I think amazes me the most about these books is the flawlessness of the worldbuilding. I am in awe of Stacia Kane's storytelling abilities. She has made Downside explode to life with these vivid characters and interesting mythology. The Downside lingo is so awesome - it just adds to the complexity and seamlessness of the rest of the world. In what I'm seeing is typical Downside fashion, Chess starts out working two separate cases - one for the Church and one for Bump - and somewhere along the way, she discovers they're connected. There were twists and turns and surprises along the way. I love being surprised, and it happens in every one of these books. After the dust settles from the final showdown, it's clear that things are going to change in Downside. The real question is, how much, and how will it all affect Chess and Terrible? I know that currently there is one more book out - Chasing Magic. The best news ever appeared on Stacia Kane's website earlier this month - not only are Downside #6 AND #7 a go (!!!), but so is another Terrible novella (!!!!!!!!!!). OMG - that is the best news ever. I can't wait to find out if Chess can at least lessen her addiction to drugs and if she can pull herself out of her own head long enough to realize that Terrible and she are each others' end games. If you haven't started this dark urban fantasy series yet, you now have plenty of time to get all caught up before the story continues again. What are you waiting for?!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really digging this series, although I am curious as to how long before Chess bottoms out.
Berls More than 1 year ago
My Initial Reaction...  This series just keeps getting better and better! What can I say about Sacrificial Magic? Talk about emotional torture of the best kind! Not to mention the amazballs action you always get from Stacia Kane! Note: Expect series spoilers! The Narration...  Bahni Turpin is the perfect fit for this series. She's made the Downside world so incredibly real for me and I can't imagine reading these books without her. I have a few favorite narrators and I can't imagine even one of them doing this series. She's made each character have such an amazingly strong and unique voice, not to mention made the unique Downside language the Stacia created work for me. I definitely recommend listening to this series.  The Characters...  OMG, Chess has officially broken my heart with Sacrificial Magic. We've known for a while that she's running from a horrible past by using her drugs and every bit that I see of that past breaks my heart. But in Sacrificial Magic we see her vulnerability like never before. She and Terrible are really trying this relationship thing and she just doesn't know how to do it. How to feel for someone. But she wants to. So she's trying so hard. She's trying to be honest with Terrible, even when it scares her. And it scares her so much because she doesn't believe she's worth loving. You've always known she didn't think much of herself, but she broke my heart over and over as how little she thinks of herself came through. But she grew hard core in Sacrificial Magic and I can't wait to see what she'll do next.  And then there's Terrible. Gah this man is so beautiful despite being physically so ugly. I think it's such a brilliant juxtaposition that Stacia created in him. He's your noble gangster, with feelings and intelligence and heart, despite what it might seem. And he doesn't really know how to do this relationship thing either, but he knows how to care about Chess, if she'll let him and trust him. Every time he called her "Chessiebomb" I think I wanted to melt a little, because it's such a horrible endearment and yet it works so well for them. I don't think I've wanted happiness and good things for a couple like this in such a long time. They just have both had so many rough knocks and deserve better and yet fate seems really against them. Fingers crossed they beat fate.  I don't know how everyone else feels about Lex, but I seriously like him. No, he's not right for Chess, but I seriously believe he is a good guy - at least when you let go of the Downside Gangster part of him. I think he loves Chess and if could let their past fade a bit, I think he would realize that she's someone he's always loved as a friend. Sex just confused things a bit. Things are about to get really crazy where he's concerned, though, and I just hope that he doesn't change for the worse. And that somehow things work out for him, Chess, and Terrible - I think they could all be friends, if it weren't for the world they live in.  Oh and can I just say how much I loved Elder Griffin in Sacrificial Magic? I mean we haven't gotten to know him all that well - but I feel like he's that father figure that Chess so desperately needs in her life. A decent man who only wants good things for her. I hope we keep seeing more of him as the series progresses.  The Story...  In Sacrificial Magic, as always, Chess gets a job from the Church that just so happens to coincide with what's going on in Downside (I have to say - I'm getting a bit tired of how these two elements always overlap - I still loved this book, but come on, let's find a new way for the two parts of her life to meet, shall we?). The job she gets from the Church is about a haunting at a Downside School, on Lex's side of town. That creates two problems - one, it's Lex's (aka not Terrible's); two - Lex's side of town has a problem with the Church. They tend to be people who believed in Ancestor Worship before the Church took over and they still cling to that a bit. Not to mention the actual ghost problem. As always, the way that Stacia explains and describes the magic is fantastic. You can see what's happening so vividly and it gets pretty intense. Things are also really heating up between the two crime lords of Downside - Bump and Slobag. I love this aspect of the series, especially since Chess is right smack dab in the middle and I find myself (like her) caring for people on both sides. Things get seriously complicated, confusing, and intense - poor Chess has an attempt on her life (Again!) and we end up watching a massive turf war, all while a magically battle is also going down. It kept me glued until the final page! Concluding Sentiments...  I don't know what I liked more about this book - the sexual tension between Chess and Terrible or the explosive action. Either way, it was fantastic! This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When is book 4 coming
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Bmoffatt85 More than 1 year ago
Once I began reading this book I could not stop. My adult responsibilities are seriously being neglected haha. It was everything I love in a book fast paced and exciting. I am completely engrossed in the series and feel as though I live there. Chess and terrible have quickly become my favorite UF couple of all time. Terrible mmmm mmmm mmmm can't get enough!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Keeps you on the edge of your seat!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MVF More than 1 year ago
Each book gets better than the last. In this one Chess investigates sacrificial killings while she learns to deal with her insecurities and her relationship with Terrible. In the end, she realizes she has to take a chance on herself and life. I'm being deliberately obtuse with the plot--again, I think you should read it. The story unfolds in a wonderful way. I enjoy how the author slowly draws us into the problems that Chess faces and the fact that her friendships are sometimes a liability and a help. Still the hardest thing for me is the heroine's struggle with her addiction--it is painful, but the author doesn't shirk this part of her story and it makes the struggles something the reader can sympathize and understand. There is one scene when Chess has an argument with Terrible when she is very high--it made me cringe because it was so realistic. Still in the end--you cheer on Chess you want her to succeed and to win. (and Terrible is a wonderful hero of sorts..rough and sweet in his own tough way) This series is gritty, enthralling, and her characterizations excellent. I am trying so hard to slowly read the next book--to savor it as it should, but its like an addiction. I highly recommend this story.
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