Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Before the Fall by Francis Knight

Maybe I approached this the wrong way. I'm not sure. Before I go too far I'll start with the preliminaries. Before the Fall is the second of Francis Knight's Rojan Dizon books. It follows the highly promoted Fade to Black. There'a third volume scheduled for publication later this year.

Fade to Black had a few problems for me. The setting, the towering city of Mahala, seemed to be rather lacking in depth or any real solid world building. The central character Rojan Dizon failed to engender much sympathy from me, because he was a one note character and not particularly likeable. The plot twists were also telegraphed which left the reveals a little flat when they came. The idea of pain magic was a good one though and there was room for development which is why I gave it another go with Before the Fall.

For me anyway it didn't work. More of the action takes place in Mahala, which was more atmospheric and darker than it was in Fade to Black. However the city lacks a sense of history and I keep asking myself questions like who do they trade with, how do they survive, how come their outside neighbours haven't become a problem until now? The various districts have one word names like Trade and Buzz, these are descriptive, but in a city with any real history we'd have names like these evolve. They seem more like street names than district names. Maybe I'm expecting too much of what is really a fairly easy and quick read.

I still have issues with Rojan. He's very one dimensional and the self loathing that rises off him in waves becomes rather tiresome fairly quickly. I have difficulty seeing why anyone would even like him, let alone the unending stream of women who seem to want to fall into bed with him. Interestingly at least four of the women that he does interact with in Before the Fall don't seem to like him. Lastri has always hated him (smart lady), Jake tolerates him, but the interest (I hesitate to call it love, it feels more like lust) he has in her is not reciprocated, she only has eyes for Pasha and Rojan would be best to accept that and move on as far as she is concerned. Erlat has to deal with him as part of her job and while Abeya does sleep with him, she also tries to kill him. He could have fallen off one of the spans that connect parts of Mahala and died somewhere down in the dark early in the book and it may have actually improved the read for me.

The plot twists are much better hidden, but I really did have problems trying to care about Rojan, which presents issues when he narrates the story and is front and centre most of the time.

They're easy books to read as long as you don't think too hard about them, but it's not a series I'll be continuing with.

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