Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fade to Black by Francis Knight

Fade to Black is the debut fantasy novel by Francis Knight. It's the first of a planned series starring the pain mage Rojan Dizon.

It's a hard novel to categorise. It tends to have been slotted into urban fantasy and it does take place in a city and have a protagonist who does tend to bring Harry Dresden to mind, but it's on a secondary world that isn't Earth. It also has a rather dystopian feel to it and that's how it started.

It's set mostly in the city of Mahala. Mahala is a vertical city, that has been built upward and not outward. The result of this is that only the wealthiest and most powerful live in the light, everyone else is oppressed by their dim existence. The city actually reminded me of the giant metropolises in David Wingrove's Chung Kuo and the Pit was rather reminiscent of Chung Kuo's Clay.

Rojan lives in the shadows and hides his ability as a pain mage from most, partly because it's illegal and partly because despite the pain that is required to give him the power it is addictive.

The hard boiled bounty hunter doesn't want to let himself get too close to anyone or let anyone into his life, that is until his estranged brother comes looking, asking for Rojan's help in tracking down his abducted daughter Amarie.

It's an entertaining book and it moves fast with some good action sequences. The idea of pain magic is an interesting one and handled very well.

I felt Mahala itself was a little shallow and the whole book had the feel that it could have been darker and more meticulously built, but it's the opener in a series and I'm sure it will grow as it is written. Rojan himself was a little bland and occasionally inconsistent, but he also shows promise and has scope.

All in all it was entertaining and I am confident it will grow and improve as the series is written. A promising start.

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