Monday, June 25, 2012
Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
4.5 Stars. The thing I love best about Kane is that she always gets the people and the relationships so completely right. On the one hand, the world is different and magical and sometimes pretty weird. And the other hand it's completely normal, at least when it comes to people's hearts and their motivations, good and bad. The best example, of course, is Chess and Terrible, who's love feels so grounded and vivid. For example, when they go to Elder Griffin's wedding, everything between them gets all stirred up, just like any other couple. Keith, Elder Griffin's new hubby, asks Terrible, "so when are you two getting married," and his mind starts churning, he's thinking about his commitment to Chess and wanting to move forward, she's crazy-scared of what that might mean, and it totally makes sense for their characters. It felt like watching any number of friends of mine who have gone through the exact same thing; well, you know, plus overdoses, zombies, gang wars, and almost dying a few times to spice things up.
One of the other things that Kane does really well is having an interesting self-contained mystery for each book and balancing that with the continuing story arcs across the series. The last book had to do with trying to figure out who may or may not have summoned a ghost in a school in Lex's territory. This book takes an even darker tone as people who almost seem like zombies are being found wandering around town, violent and nearly unstoppable, plus a number of other people are being found horribly killed in both Bump and Lex's territories. The gruesome crimes are soon connected and of course only Chess can investigate and try to end this terrifying chain of events. At the same time, Kane manages to continue working the themes of the romance between Chess and Terrible, the situation with the sigil on Terrible's chest, Chess's drug use, Chess's history with Lex, the tension between the two gangs, Chess's history with the Church and with Elder Griffin, and many other themes into the story as well. What's really remarkable is that while juggling so many stories over five books now, she's managed to do it at a pace that is interesting and not horribly frustrating at the same time, tough to manage at a pace of a book a year or so. She layers the pieces of the story slowly and builds upon the layers so that I'm curious as to what's going to happen, with Lex or with the sigil for example, but I'm getting enough information that I'm not upset or frustrated. I even remember what's going on, remarkable with my rotten memory, so she does a great job of filling in the details without any annoying infodumps, which I really hate.
Chess's drug use was, as usual, painful to watch in this book. The overdose, her feeling like she has control of her life through using when it's so clearly out of control, it's just painful. As I said in my last review, it's such a vivid portrayal of a functioning addict, it's often more Oprah Book of the Month than typical adventure or romance novel, which just goes to show that you can always learn something while having fun. And this book really showed more of how it effects her relationship with Terrible, who's trying so hard just to love and support her. It's achingly tender, agonizing infuriating, cuts to the bone realistic.
I take back the nice things I said about Lex in my last review. He doesn't respect her, not really. He does understand her, but only the bad parts. Maybe they're too much alike. He takes advantage of her darkest and most negative emotions and uses them to his advantage. He sees that she hates herself and he turns that against her and Terrible. It seems like he doesn't like himself so he sees that in her too maybe. There was something in here that said that Terrible doesn't like Lex because he give Chess her drugs for free, which was a good point, an enabler really isn't a friend, especially as she's spinning more and more out of control. Yes, he's done a lot of favors for her, but I'm over him all together now.
I wonder what's going to happen with Chess and the Church? She's always taken so much pride in her work, even though her persona at the Church is so fake. But now Elder Griffin knows what she's done and is pushing her away. She continues to work for Bump and Lex and hide things from the Church that they should probably know. Her choices pull her farther and farther from anything resembling the rules and regulations. And yet, when push comes to shove, this is how she thinks about herself, "This was magic, and she could do magic; if there was one thug she could fucking do this was it. She wasn't just a junkie, she was a motherfucking Churchwitch." What's going to happen if that can't be true anymore? There wasn't any real foreshadowing about that, but if you look at the story arc, it could be pulling in that direction. There was a conversation at one point (in the last book) about witches leaving the Church. On the other hand, looking from the outside, at the Church she's always hiding, she can never be who she really is, where with Terrible, for the first time in her life, she's truly accepted and celebrated for being herself. Maybe if she wasn't always hiding she wouldn't have to be so afraid all of the time, maybe she could learn ways of being in control of her life that weren't just about pills and drugs. So maybe there's a better choice out there for her?
Anyway, this remains one of my absolute favorite series, I highly recommend it, if that isn’t obvious. The writing is just brilliant, nuanced and yet exciting at the same time, always fun and yet always thoughtful. Kane has me thoroughly hooked.
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