Gritty and dark, this series still manages to make an emotional connection to the reader. Even when she's making bad choices, my heart breaks for Chess. Her abusive childhood has left her with low self-esteem, along with feelings of being dirty and unworthy of love from others. She tries to drown those issues beneath drugs, but often she's her own worst enemy. Though she's constantly fighting her own personal demons, Chess has managed to carry out her duties to the Church, hunting down ghosts or exposing false hauntings, while keeping her darker side hidden from the Elders.
Certain choices, good and bad, come back to haunt her in this book. We've seen one repercussion of saving Terrible's life in his reaction to black magic. Chasing Magic
reveals an even darker consequence and also leads to a major personal crisis for Chess. Elder Griffin's disappointment with her and his resulting decisions were heart-breaking. Chess's decision to maintain a platonic friendship with Lex, despite their past, causes turmoil in her relationship with Terrible and also results in more trouble.
On the surface, Chess still appears to be spiraling down. Her drug addiction seems to be worsening the accidental OD is evidence of that and her bad judgement continues to threaten her relationship with Terrible. At the same time, I can see moments of growth. Chess is proud of her relationship with Terrible and takes him with her to Elder Griffin's marriage ceremony. She doesn't care about the reaction of the other Church members and only wants the two most important men in her life to meet. Also, Chess's entire life has depended on lying. Lying to the Church about her drug addiction and Downsider lifestyle, lying to Terrible, even lying to herself. In Chasing Magic
, she chooses truth over a convenient lie at key moments. One example: When Elder Griffin confronts her over what she's done to Terrible, she could have lied or at least left out part of the truth. She chooses to tell him the entire truth about the binding. And killing the psychopomp, even knowing the punishment is death.
With all this happening in her personal life, Chess still has to deal with murders related to a tainted drug supply and black magic. She can't involve the Church in her hunt for the killer/mage without exposing her Downside life, so Chess must be be careful in how she uses Church resources. The investigation is as wonderfully gruesome as always and leads to an intense battle scene conclusion.
I'll definitely be buying the next book in this series.