|CHESS PUTNAM #1
||CHESS PUTNAM #2
|CHESS PUTNAM #3
||CHESS PUTNAM #5
Available in Mass Market Paperback and eBook
Del Rey (March 27, 2012)
Harper Voyager (May 10, 2012)
READING, WRITING, AND RAISING THE DEAD
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.
If you are a fan of this series, this one is not to be missed. It’s the best yet, in my opinion. If you haven’t read these and you love urban fantasy, I suggest that you get the first one right away. And if you haven’t gotten into urban fantasy, but love complex, interesting characters and gritty stories, then I’d definitely give these a try.— TheReadventurer.com
So, let’s summarize my feelings for Sacrificial Magic, shall we? ADORATION. Fans of grittier UF, damaged heroines, adult dystopian, unusual heroes, and the F word will love this book.— Goldilox and the Three Weres
SACRIFICIAL MAGIC is one of my most anticipated reads of 2012 and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s explosive, full of nail biting tension and has incredibly written passages I kept re-reading certain paragraphs because the words sound like poetry to me. Stacia has blown my mind away with SACRIFICIAL MAGIC. She continues to improves with every book. This is a must read and will most likely be in my top 5 favorite books for this year. Chess and Terrible have become my latest addiction where I wait with bated breath for their next adventure.— Babbling About Books
Whether [the reader's heart] is pounding in fear, or breaking in sympathy, this book was satisfying on pretty much every level…. For anyone that hasn’t picked up this amazing series yet, or perhaps you’ve seen it floating around on peoples’ shelves but have been put off by the fact that the MC is an addict, I have to implore you to reconsider. This is such an addictive (ha), compelling series.— Five stars from Urban Fantasy Book Reviews
If I had not completely jumped on the Downside bandwagon initially, I am officially in love with this series now! … I highly recommend this series, especially the third and fourth books! You’ve outdone yourself again Stacia Kane.— Underworld Love Addiction
I was very excited to see that the Downside Ghosts series is continuing, and I wasn’t disappointed upon reading the most recent offering. SACRIFICIAL MAGIC is full of dangerous spells, murderous ghosts and dark rooms oozing dread. Featuring one of the most unusual heroines you’ll read about, Stacia Kane’s books are worth going out of your way to pick up.— Owlcat Mountain
Read an Excerpt
New! Download the first THREE chapters in PDF form here!
SACRIFICIAL MAGIC - First 3 Chapters (990)
Note: this excerpt is from the pre-copy-edited manuscript. Final version may vary slightly.
“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 particularly 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, 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, the new Debunker she was training, 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 little 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 which every Church employee capable of 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 thin breeze hadn’t really penetrated there, 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 on her arms, up them and across her chest as her magical tattoos reacted to the presence of a spirit. A ghost was definitely present. 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 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 but at the same time cool, the kind of thing that would make Riley feel brave but not patronized. And 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 someone and make them feel good about themselves. Cliché was probably about the best she could do, but she’d give it a try; Riley wasn’t a bad kid, really.
“You’ll be fine,” was the attempt she made, 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 back there. 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 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 permanent weekend hangout until two nights before, when one of them met their 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 the Church’s discipline should she be caught with the weapon than with anyone or anything she might come across in a place like this.
Not that she would need it 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 never really helped 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, specially 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. A 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 do—was the fact that she was still just high enough to not be 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 grew just a little bit weaker.
Whatever. Wasn’t like she could just turn around and run. So instead 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, 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, 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—the ringleader, or whatever—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, and she needed to get those little bastards out of there as quickly as possible. “You need to leave, okay? Just go home.”
“We’ve been in here for like an hour,” one of them replied. The flashlight he’d hidden under his dark blue jacket still glowed, made him glow. That’s where that 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. “You need to 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 formed in the air the ghost—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 armed ghosts.
Chess started to throw her dirt, put as much power behind it as she could, but missed as the three teenagers freaked out and started running. One of them knocked her against the wall; the other 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 that had probably once been some sort of reception area or something. There was barely room to move in there, much less do anything else, and two of the ghosts were not only still mobile but had found themselves some weapons to bring to the party.
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 them alight. Had set the whole bag 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.
Worse, while she’d been distracted the other moving ghost had found itself a length of pipe and used it to try to knock off one of the teenagers’ heads like a ball off a tee.
At least that’s what she assumed had happened. The flashlight in the one guy’s jacket had gone out, or been smashed. The unearthly, hideous glow of the four spirits provided the room’s only illumination, giving everything the unreal look of a nightmare.
Riley yelled something. She barely heard it over the sound of her breath in her ears and the shouts of the teens. One of them slipped just as she had. The ghost raised its pipe.
Graveyard dirt still in her fist. She threw it, threw her power too. The ghost froze but dropped the pipe; it clattered on the kid’s back, knocked him down into the floor sewage.
Riley had apparently managed to freeze the fourth ghost. Not that it mattered that much. It wasn’t like they’d stay frozen forever; ten minutes tops. They needed to get passports on the things, and they needed to get a salt circle down as fast as possible—that would be fun, in the wet sludge.
And they needed to get those motherfucking kids out of there before the scent of their blood, the taste of their terror in the air, attracted more dead. Who knew how many there may be in the area? She and Riley had been told to expect two at the most, and here there were four. Like some kind of deadly double-score bonus on the world’s worst game show.
Well, hey, at least she got to win something, right?
“Riley, get them out of here.” She managed to stand, cringing at the feel of her nasty wet jeans touching her skin, and started digging through her bag for her salt. “I’ll try to get a circle down.”
“I don’t think I can,” Riley said.
“What?” Had some of the salt spilled when she fell? She’d thought she packed more.
“I don’t think I can.”
How could he not shoo a couple of injured kids out of the building? They were probably desperate to leave anyway. She looked up at him, annoyed, but what she saw changed the annoyance to the sort of oh-fuck-no feeling she was all too used to.
He stood against the wall, his face pale, his body still, staring at the ghosts with fear-wide eyes. “I don’t think I can, Chess. I’m sorry, but I—look at what they did, look at those kids.”
“Yeah, but Riley, they’re frozen now, right? They can’t move. Let’s just—I’ll lay the circle and you start the ritual, okay? Or you lay the salt. The sooner we start the sooner we can get out of here, right?”
He shook his head. “I can’t get close to them.”
“You got close to them in training.” In another minute or two the first ghost was going to shake off the power holding it—him—and start moving again. She needed to at least get him marked, and now. “Remember training? You can do this, you can.”
“That was different. That was in class, with the Elders and everybody. I can’t…I can’t…”
Choice time. Keep trying to coddle Riley and hope to get him to de-stun, or ignore him and Banish four ghosts by herself, with her lone psychopomp, which would probably require at least two separate callings.
The teenagers—aside from the one who’d run, and the one with the broken nose who huddled against the wall moaning—watched with interest. That, at least, wasn’t a tough decision. “Get your friends and get the hell out of here. Now.”
“But, we want to watch you—”
Her sigh felt like it passed through every inch of her body before it finally came out. “Get. The hell out. Now. Or I will make sure you all get a nice long afternoon in the stocks next Holy Day.”
Finally, something she said produced some kind of result. They left, brushing past her as they walked out the door. They’d probably stand just outside listening, and the knowledge pissed her off, but it would take too much time to lecture them some more.
“Riley. Are you going to help me?”
He shook his head. Great.
Another bone-sucking sigh, and she popped the cap on her Ectoplasmarker. At least her psychopomp could be counted on to behave the way it was supposed to.