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 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 unlucky for Rojan—this is going to hurt.
Released: February 26th 2013 Pages: 384
Publisher: Orbit Source: Library
First Look: ***** This is one book that I picked up for no reason other than that I liked the cover. The premise is cool, but that cover just grabbed my attention.
Setting: ***** It's interesting, but also confusing. A few people have guns (newly invented technology, in this case), but not everyone. Because of...reasons? The concept of the synth and the glow, two sort-of magical substances that provide energy to the city, is well-explained, but what's unclear is how it relates to the magic system. The magic is the weakest part of this book. Why do some people have magic but not others? How, exactly, did Rojan even learn to use it? What is his connection to the glow? The non-fantasy elements of the setting, like the social structure and that of the city itself, make sense and are compelling, but the magic element didn't work for me.
Characters: ***** I liked Rojan. Right away, he establishes himself as a strong character, full of personality. His employment is a little on the sketchy side, and he readily admits he's not without vices, but he has a caring heart beneath it all. He goes through a lot of pain in order to save a niece he's never even met. Francis Knight makes him at once likable and flawed, which is the best kind of character.
Other characters were well-developed, for the most part. Jake, the love interest (a woman), has her own unique personality that plays off Rojan's. The two have a complex relationship, though it's nowhere near as nuanced as her relationship with her business partner, for lack of a better term and the fact that I honestly can't remember the man's name right now.
Plot: ***** It starts out interesting, but the second half falls into chaos. Rojan begins with a simple goal: rescue his niece. Then, though, it becomes a quest to free all the captive children, whose pain is being used to power the city. I have no problem with that itself, but from there, it just kept going, and ended with Rojan wanting to take down the entire oppressive government. Or the ruler, at least, *highlight to read spoiler* who just so happens to be...*gasp*...Rojan's father. Um...okay. The last half is fast-moving series of events that have little or no explanation, leading to an ending that feels rushed and disorienting.
Uniqueness: ***** It has a little of so many different genres, making it hard to pin down. It's part urban fantasy, with characters with magical powers. It's part dystopian fiction, with a formerly glorious city now full of disease and poverty, plus a dictator that nobody likes. It's also part thriller, part mystery, and part something I can't quite name.
Writing: ***** I have no strong feelings one way or another about the writing. Except for the last few chapters, which made me disoriented in an already-rushed ending, the narration did its job. I got to see inside Rojan's head in a way that made him seem real. Then again, I never felt as fully engaged as I wanted to. I have no specific reasons for this--it just didn't do the trick for me.
Likes: That cover, though...
Not-so-great: Can we get a female character who isn't (a) in need of rescue (b) the object of Rojan's abundant lust (c) a former or present prostitute (d) all of the above? Is that too much to ask?
Overall: Fade to Black has an awesome premise, with a genre-defying setting that's both a fantasy world and a dystopia. Some aspects of it, though, like the magic system, make little sense. I liked the main character, Rojan, and some of the side characters. The plot becomes disjointed and chaotic in the second half. Overall, this just never grabbed my attention, despite its strong points.