Rojan Dizon is a pain mage with a talent for finding people in the sprawling heights of Mahala. When his niece Amarie goes missing, Rojan must go down into the Pit, a place everybody Upside thought was abandoned. As he descends further through the hidden parts of the city, he realises that this isn’t just a simple kidnapping. With the help of a few new friends, he stands a chance of unravelling the mystery and finding Amarie, but everything he has been taught must be questioned and when the time comes he must make the ultimate choice.
I was fascinated by the ideas of ‘Fade To Black’, the first in a series of books about Rojan Dizon written by Francis Knight, before I started reading. The city of Mahala is built upwards instead of outwards, with layers closer to the top, closer to the sunshine, indicating higher class. It immediately conjures pictures in the mind of exciting architecture and lots of hidden places tucked in between levels. What better place could there be for a story essentially about finding someone? It also sounded like there was a pretty cool new magic system based on the use of pain to create magical energy. It’s about time some of those wizarding types had to make a little effort.
I was expecting great things, but I was a little disappointed that actually it was only good rather than great. I can’t exactly put my finger on it but something was missing, something that meant I didn’t get drawn into this world and find myself lost among its streets.
The characters were OK, though not revolutionary by any means. The main character, Rojan Dizon, is a troubled man who has fallen out with religion and despite being grumpy and impatient still does the right thing. He teams up with another pain mage with a difficult background and a woman who is constantly fighting her own inner demons (not of the literal variety) as she battles in the arenas of the Pit. I don’t have any complaints about them but nor would I be shedding any tears over them. Again, there is just something that doesn’t quite elevate them to greatness.
The plot was quite simple and the few twists were unsurprising and, dare I say it, a little clichéd. I still enjoyed it but it did lack something. A few times I found myself noticing bits that had been repeated, complete duplicated phrases that maybe should have been edited out of one section or the other. It felt a little sloppy that these repetitions were left in. I know a reader needs some of the key points emphasising but it can be done in much subtler ways.
This sounds like a terrible review but it really isn’t a bad book and I did enjoy reading it and just had higher expectations. There are plenty of exciting new ideas to get your head around and if the plot and characters aren’t incredible then there is plenty of room for them to grow over the rest of the series. In a way, it makes me want to read book two’ Before The Fall’, even more. I want to see how they develop and where Knight takes them next.
‘Fade To Black’ deserves a solid three stars out of five and it would only take one or two tweaks to push it up to a four star book in my mind. A little bit of tighter editing and a bit more in the way of descriptive text (I don’t often say that about fantasy books) would really bring it up and make it more engaging. It deserves a chance and I have every hope that this series is going to grow nicely over the next books.
(pub: Orbit. 515 page small hardback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-356-50166-6)