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Fade to Black by Francis Knight
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14710123,088 (3.33)3



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Fade to Black was a good but not great novel. It paints a good picture of a bleak, dystopian world. In a city where electricity and power comes in the form of magic provided by pain mages, who draw their power from physical hurt, either their own or that of others, the lowest of the low class live under ground. The higher up people are in wealth and class, they literally live higher up in buildings that are built massively huge, piled on top of each other. There is a deep, dark conspiracy afoot, one in which Rojan Dizon finds himself right in the middle of. Rojan is a pain mage and bounty hunter, who keeps his magic a secret, although it’s not a very well kept secret. Rojan is forced to go to the pit, where the lowest of the low live in search of his kidnapped niece.

There were things I liked about the novel and things that didn’t work for me. On the plus side, I think the author successfully builds a nice bleak atmosphere to the novel. The writing fits the mood and works well. There are some good plot turns, and decent conspiracies. On the negative side, Rojan is a pretty bad character. It’s hard to have much respect for him when there were so many obvious things happening that should have been obvious to him and he was completely clueless about. It’s hard to get into a novel with a weak protagonist who I found to be generally unlikeable. The novel ends with a bang. I also liked the whole simulated fighting that they had in the pits that reminded me of pro wrestling with weapons. I would give this novel a thumbs up, but not an enthusiastic one.

Carl Alves – author of Reconquest: Mother Earth ( )
  Carl_Alves | Jan 20, 2019 |
Rojan Dizon is a bounty hunter in the city-state of Mahala living a quiet life in the shadows and trying to stay out of trouble as much as possible. He’s also a pain mage, and his magic has been outlawed by the Ministry that controls the city. His life is going great when his long-lost brother asks him to find his missing daughter, and he can’t bring himself to refuse, despite knowing that he’s messing with the Ministry. And of course, he ends up finding much more than a missing girl.

I enjoyed FADE TO BLACK a lot. Rojan Dizon is pretty much your standard Mat Cauthon (from Wheel of Time) template – roguish, out for himself, ultimately moral. He does become more heroic over the course of the book, but it’s believable – it’s because he cares for specific people (his niece, the people that help him find her) and because he’s a fairly nice guy, which is established early on. Also, his blatant womanizing was pretty funny, and just like Mat, when he actually likes someone, he’s clueless.

The relationships (I don’t mean romance) in this book are complex and made the characters seem realistic. Rojan and his brother Perak are estranged, but they still respect and love each other. Rojan worries about his business partner Dendal’s use of magic, and it’s clear that they have a solid friendship. And I enjoyed the complicated relationship that he develops with his contacts in the Pit, Jake and Pasha – there’s a little bit of a love triangle, but it’s mostly just messy.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I really enjoy city-states in fantasy; I’m not really sure why – maybe because books set in city-states tend to make them more atmospheric, and also focus on the economy and structure of how everything works. Anyway, Mahala was a great setting, nestled in a mountain pass, with no choice but to build up to expand, and with only precarious walkways to navigate. I’m not sure about how that would work in practice, but I assume that since this world has magic, that would help somehow. It certainly makes for a very picturesque image. I also enjoyed the somewhat industrial setting, although electricity is just being discovered and magic powers the factories. I’d like to read more about how that works; luckily there are two more books. The magic system is neat, too – the author takes the general rule of “magic has to have a cost” almost literally, since magic is fuelled by pain.

I was a little bit confused by the writing style of the book – it’s first person, and I think it’s supposed to indicate that Rojan is writing this long after the events have happened, but that took a while to get used to, and in the beginning, I thought there were just a bunch of inconsistencies. One example is when Rojan reunites with Perak (not really spoilers, it happens in the first couple of chapters), before meeting him that it was no surprise that of course he’d end up in Alchemical Research (which is part of his overall narration), but then when Perak explains his job, he’s truly shocked (but that was his reaction in that moment). There are more things like that, but once I figured the style out, everything made sense.

My other complaint is that things wrapped up a little too neatly at the end. I was hoping that the case that Rojan is working on at the beginning of the book was just a look at his everyday life before he got sucked into something crazy – just establishing his character – but it turned out to be plot-relevant. I also did not like the identity of the main antagonist, he ended up conveniently wrapping up not one but two other major threads in the story, although given Rojan’s character of avoiding responsibility, there would’ve been no other way to set him up for the next two books without those threads being resolved.

There’s more stuff I haven’t talked about, like the way FADE TO BLACK approaches religion (both organized religion and belief), but words are deserting me today. I’ll just say – I’m pretty excited to read the next two books and see what happens to Mahala. Maybe we’ll even see Outside! ( )
  kgodey | Apr 11, 2017 |
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: Forbidden magic, missing kids, what is really happening in Mahala?

Opening Sentence: “I forced the door, nice and quiet, with my ever-so-slightly-illegal pulse piston at the ready.”

The Review:

Rojan finds people, what he doesn’t advertise is that he can do so with pain magic, which is expressly illegal. When his brother, who has been shot asks Rojan to find his niece, he doesn’t hesitate to say yes. Even though it’s clear from the beginning that this is going to be extremely dangerous. It also necessitates a trip down below, where everything is different. One of his contacts sets him up with Pasha who in turn introduces him to Jake, with whom he is immediately smitten. Jake, however has an odd relationship with Pasha, even though she clearly doesn’t like to be touched by anyone.

As they begin to search for Amarie, Rojan finds out that kids have been disappearing underneath for quite some time. He begins to realize that they are stumbling on a deeper mystery than who took his niece. As everything begins to fall apart who can Rojan trust? Will Jake and Rojan be able to save Amarie?

This world, I was sucked in from the very beginning. It really gave me a bit (not too much) of a Harry Dresden feel. Although this is a much different world. Magic exists, but for the most part the Ministry forbids it, and they rule with an iron fist. Get arrested and most likely you just disappear, never to be seen again. Rojan is snarky, bit of an ass finder of people. He can do it through his brand of magic, pain magic, but he prefers to do it the old fashioned way, because pain magic is an addiction that you can get lost in.

Rojan ends up in the Under, which is this seedy place where the Ministry and Upsiders are completely not welcome. They have death fights, which is were he meets Jake who never kills anyone, and she and Pasha have been rescuing girls from the mages for awhile now. This is a complex novel with layers, you initially think that the mystery is finding Amarie, but not long after he enters the Under you find that there is soo much more going on.

There are three book in this series, and I will be reviewing book 2 soon! If you like Harry Dresdan or that kind of paranormal then this book is totally for you! I really enjoyed this and I liked Rojan, and Jake and wow…the ending is totally crazy!

Notable Scene:

“I’d nearly had to resort to magic, and I never like to do that.”

“Secrecy was almost like a second religion for them.”

“The years, and with them they animosity, rolled away.”

“Those calm, dead eyes talked to me, told me could slice me limb from limb and not worry about it, but there was something else, deeper, darker, and even now I couldn’t tell you what it was.”

“By the time Pasha came back I was in the hole, in amongst the dead, looking for the dying.”

“But there was something else, something that held them together like an invisible string.”

FTC Advisory: Orbit provided me with a copy of Fade to Black. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | Feb 23, 2016 |
This book was an average read.
The world building was interesting. This is a dark, grim city where the people in the upper world don't know what's going on in the underworld and where pain is used as a source of magic.
The hero is quite the antihero and hides the fact that he has some ability with pain magic (a dangerous thing to admit to).
His brother's daughter is kidnapped and he goes looking for her, discovering what goes on in the underworld and he meets up with a group of freedom fighters trying to do their little best against the evil being perpetrated in the name of their government.
Probably 2 1/2 stars. ( )
  quiBee | Jan 21, 2016 |
I should have listened to The Book Smugglers when they expressed their disappointment with this book. The world-building is pretty awesome, peeps. But something was missing. As in great characters. Rojan was very grey without any bright, distinctive traits. The love interest was a bit bizarre and unexpected as well, so while I liked some parts I wouldn't read beyond this book and wouldn't recommend it. It was simply uninspiring. ( )
  kara-karina | Nov 20, 2015 |
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I forced the door, nice and quiet, with my ever-so-slightly-illegal pulse pistol at the ready.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316217689, Paperback)

From the depths of a valley rises the city of Mahala

It's a city built upwards, not across - where streets are built upon streets, buildings upon buildings. A city that the Ministry rules from the sunlit summit, and where the forsaken lurk in the darkness of Under.

Rojan Dizon doesn't mind staying in the shadows, because he's got things to hide. Things like being a pain-mage, with the forbidden power to draw magic from pain. But he can't hide for ever.

Because when Rojan stumbles upon the secrets lurking in the depths of the Pit, the fate of Mahala will depend on him using his magic. And unlucky for Rojan - this is going to hurt.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:30 -0400)

"It's a city built upward, not across---where streets are built upon streets, buildings upon buildings. A city that the Ministry rules from the sunlit summit, and where the forsaken lurk in the darkness of Under. Rojan Dizon doesn't mind staying in the shadows because he's got things to hide. Things like being a pain-mage, with the forbidden power to draw magic from pain. But when the fate of Mahala depends on him using his magic, he can't hide forever. Because when Rojan stumbles upon the secrets lurking in the depths of the Pit, the fate of Mahala will depend on him using his magic. And---unluckily for Rojan---this is going to hurt."--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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