This book was a lot better than just an urban fantasy about a drug addict witch. I can't tell you how accurate the addiction part of it was, and for story purposes, I'm not sure how much that matters; the point for me was that Chess, the protagonist, got into trouble and did stupid things because of her addiction. For me, that meant that plot wasn't by-the-numbers, wasn't predictable, and was actually exciting.
At no point was I bored.
The book's world is an AU present, or close to it. In the late 1990s, ghosts went wild and killed a huge chunk of the earth's population. An underground group of magic users managed to control the ghosts, and from then on took over government as the agnostic Church (all previous churches are forbidden thereafter). Chess is a foundling with a terrible past whose only home has been the Church, which I suspect is an issue that will be further addressed in this series. She lives in Downside, which might be one of those standard dystopic crime-ridden poverty-stricken neighborhoods in any other book, but in this one, thanks to the characters, I remained interested. The major male character, Terrible, is an enforcer for Bump, a powerful drug lord, and a secondary male character, Lex, works for one of the other major crime lords. Both of these characters are protective of Chess, and she reluctantly begins to trust them, while a former lover from the Church is much more ambiguous. I was too involved in the story to articulate everything I felt was there, but regardless, the moral complexity intrigued me enough that I plan to read the other books in the series.
Terrible, in particular, is a great characters. Seen first as a huge ugly man whom everyone in Downside fears, through his actions he grows steadily more complex and more attractive both to the reader and to Chess, and though their relationship remains ambiguous at the end of the novel, I suspect it's not over.