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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review: Fade to Black by Francis Knight
So, the Orbit marketing team did a really good job of getting this blasted all over my twitter and Facebook and making me fall in serious cover lust. It's just such a striking image - I love it - and reading the blurb only made me more interested. I was pleased that the story lived up to the promise.

The great strength of the story is the world. Mahala is an...
Published 19 months ago by Liberty Gilmore

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Terrific world building, cliche story.
There are some great ideas here and an intriguing premise that sadly, just didn't deliver. The world building is terrific, the best thing in this novel by a mile. The characters have no discernible depth and the plot was one long cliché that reads like a checklist of currently fashionable themes: steampunk meets dystopia meets urban fantasy meets practical magic in...
Published 16 months ago by Book Critic


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review: Fade to Black by Francis Knight, 15 Mar 2013
By 
This review is from: Fade to Black: Book 1 of the Rojan Dizon Novels (Paperback)
So, the Orbit marketing team did a really good job of getting this blasted all over my twitter and Facebook and making me fall in serious cover lust. It's just such a striking image - I love it - and reading the blurb only made me more interested. I was pleased that the story lived up to the promise.

The great strength of the story is the world. Mahala is an entirely believable place, horrific in its details, and Knight throws you in at the deep end - quite literally - starting the story in the dingy squalor of the lower levels of the city. It's a world that only ever gets second hand light, bounced off mirrors (if that) and the darkness hides evil deeds done by those from the Heights. The city is like one big metaphor for the rich - again quite literally - s***ting on the poor. But it manages to be so without being overly preachy.

The characters are great, with Rojan shining as the narrator. He's a cowardly, chauvinistic opportunist, but you can't help but like him, even before he starts stepping up to the plate of the challenges he's facing. Other, more minor, characters are just as good, from warrior Jake to unlikely hero Pasha, and there's plenty of damage to go round to add interesting layers and motivations.

Because this isn't just 'dark' fantasy in the literal 'it's a dark place' sense. Fade to Black deals with some challenging themes, and doesn't shy away from gore and violence. Which, personally, I like in a book - because it's always satisfying to see these empires of evil toppled by a plucky hero in a way that would likely never happen in the real world.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this. It's one that will lurk with you for a while - for all it reads like a fast paced adventure story with no real depth, there are as many layers to the story as there are to the city of Mahala.

Rating: 5/5
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Terrific world building, cliche story., 11 Jun 2013
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Book Critic (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fade to Black: Book 1 of the Rojan Dizon Novels (Paperback)
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There are some great ideas here and an intriguing premise that sadly, just didn't deliver. The world building is terrific, the best thing in this novel by a mile. The characters have no discernible depth and the plot was one long cliché that reads like a checklist of currently fashionable themes: steampunk meets dystopia meets urban fantasy meets practical magic in a cod-noir style, in which a hard bitten Chandleresque anti-hero gets his comeuppance when he encounters the tough n' feisty, streetwise heroine and... yadda yadda yadda yadda ya. There is nothing fresh here, nothing I haven't read in a dozen other books. In the last few chapters, things start to speed up a bit; stuff actually happens, but the characters remain half-baked, unfinished, unconvincing. Stuff happens to them - pretty nasty stuff on the whole (the entire central concept is gory and not for the faint hearted, and also disturbingly and surprisingly misogynist, considering the author is female) - and I couldn't have cared less. The characters were so cardboard, I never grew to care about a single one of them.

Mahala is Fade to Black's sole saving grace. The city: the concept behind the city: the whole setting is fabulous. If world building is your thing as it is mine - read it for that alone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promising New Author Three plus stars, 17 May 2013
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Amazon Customer (Letchworth Garden City, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fade to Black: Book 1 of the Rojan Dizon Novels (Paperback)
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A good start to what I am sure will be a sequence of stories with a central character who as a forbidden "Pain Mage" has a limited palate of magical skills. The city he lives in and has to wrestle with is built up vertically with the trash, unwanted at the bottom and progressive layers of inhabitants moving up to the top sunny most layer. Begs the question as to why those at the bottom don't just set fire to the place to even things up a bit - but there you have it.

Well written - no great gratuitous violence for the sake of it. The only reason it just dips out of being a four star read is that some of the situations have a small unbelievable ring about them where a different outcome could easily have been obtained by a bit of worst/better luck.

All in all it's a good read, well imagined and presented. I would wish to read more and could only get better - this one is very almost 4 stars
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Guns and painful magic, 20 Mar 2013
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Paul Tapner (poole dorset england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fade to Black: Book 1 of the Rojan Dizon Novels (Paperback)
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Dark fantasy fiction meets hard boiled private detective style stories in a new fantasy novel. It's the first in a series. It runs for three hundred and forty seven pages. And is divided into nineteen chapters.

The main character is Rojan Dizon. Who narrates the story in the first person present tense. Like all good fictional private eyes. He lives in the city of Mahala. A city of many levels. From the run down lower ones to the much classier upper levels. Where are based the Ministry. Who run things.

We're introduced to Rojan whilst he's on a case, trying to track down a runaway girl. His next job is of a rather personal nature, as he is hired by his brother, from whom he is estranged, to find his niece. Who has been kidnapped.

The case leads him further into the lower levels than he's even been before. Where he meets an interesting couple. And finds out far more about himself and the city than he ever expected to.

The book does get going at a fast pace that does do a good job of introducing you to Rojan and his world quite quickly. It's nice to have a fantasy city and setting that is such an original creation. There are none of the usual cliche creatures of the genre to be found here. There are elements of technology in with the magic. And Rojan can get magical power from pain.

Although at the same time, this being a first book in a series, means it does take a little getting used to.

It moves along nicely enough, though. Taking it's time to fill in details along the way and bring us some decent supporting characters.

This is a book for older readers, thanks to strong language and some adult situations and violent moments. It has to be said that some of the adult language does occasionally feel a little bit unnecessary.

For the bulk of it, though, Rojan doesn't feel like a really memorable character. More a generic detective type. However things do come together superbly well in the last fifty pages, when all the plot strands converge and a few surprises await the reader. This all has the effect of bringing the story in this volume to a close, but setting up lots of possible directions for future ones to go in.

So all in all a pretty decent start to the series and a worthwhile read. I will be looking out for future volumes.

This one concludes with a short interview with the writer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid fantasy debut with a noir-ish feel, 3 Mar 2013
This review is from: Fade to Black: Book 1 of the Rojan Dizon Novels (Paperback)
The morally ambivalent Rojan Dizon makes his living tracking down run-aways and taking them home - whether they want to or not. That's no mean feat in a city the size of Mahala, given that it consists of layers of layers of buildings and streets built one upon another in a valley situated between two warring states. Key to Rojan's success is that he's a pain mage - someone who can use pain to accomplish magical feats - in his case, finding things and altering his face.

Pain magic's been banned in Mahala ever since the Archdeacon and the Ministry overthrew the tyrannical mage-king and banished the pain mages. If the Ministry discovers Rojan's abilities, then he'll be cast into the Pit - the lowest levels of the city populated by people dying from Synth - a power source that turned out to be poisonous and which triggered an environmental disaster.

When Rojan's estranged brother Perak is shot and his niece kidnapped, Rojan agrees to look for her. Doing so means venturing into the Pit where he discovers that Mahala has dirty secrets of its own and it soon becomes clear that Rojan's abilities hold the key to Mahala's future ...

Francis Knight's debut fantasy (the first in a trilogy) is a well-imagined story with a strong first-person voice and an intriguing premise that promises much for the rest of the trilogy.

Rojan portrays himself as a morally ambiguous womaniser who cares only for himself but this is belied by his actions from the start. I didn't mind that but it does take away from his supposed edge and there are times in the book where I'd have liked less personal angst given that his actions are never in doubt.

I loved Knight's depiction of Mahala, a dystopic city state ruled by a corrupt religion and more corrupt Ministry, damaged by an ecological disaster and with a literal underclass of the sick and dying. It's got a great noir-ish feel, especially the Pit and I loved the fact that it relies on factories and technology.

The story unfolds at a good pace and has plenty of twists to it. However the writing is a little baggy at times and in the last quarter it relies heavily on exposition and sudden revelations insufficiently set up earlier on.

All in all though, this is a solid debut and I shall definitely be reading on.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A new and different hero, 11 July 2013
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Kate.Tudor (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fade to Black: Book 1 of the Rojan Dizon Novels (Paperback)
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The fantasy city in which it is set is recognisable as the background to Blade Runner, this is what it is like to live in that dripping, densely populated semi-darkness with the threat of militarised police and the blight of heavy industry. Luxuries are few, expensive and precious. But magic coexists with technology in this book and its source is pain; its an interesting idea to have magic but be reluctant to use it because of the price.

Rojan, our hero narrator, is from a detective film noir; he pretends to be cynical and heartless, but his actions belie this. He has a touch of Sam Spade and indeed his weakness for dames. I liked him and look forward to reading more of his adventures. I did wonder whether this book was originally targeted at young adults, with later content added to pitch it more towards the fully adult market. There are some details that put it in the adult category, but very little description of the most adult themes. For instance we know from his own description that Rojan is a womaniser and that early in the book he is dumped by the women he's been simultaneously seeing, but that's as much as we experience of that aspect of his life. Love yes, sex no. No detailed descriptions of torture either, I'm glad of this, but at times the book seems a little "light". However a good cast of characters who made me care about what happened to them.

The "extras" at the back include an interview with the author and reveal an interesting twist which I hadn't guessed. I will be looking out for the next book.

Recommended.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Full of ideas and a substantial read, 28 Feb 2013
By 
Roy A Ellor "Roy Ellor" (Salford, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fade to Black: Book 1 of the Rojan Dizon Novels (Paperback)
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I've been seeing publicity around for a while for this book from the publishers so was definitely looking forward to reading it. The protagonist is a Pain Mage, something akin to a wizard with a limited skill set, who energises his abilities using either his own pain or that of others. Living in a megacity which has evolved and expanded vertically due to geography, the action takes place in the various layers of this monstrous construction where whole societies exist on its various strata and all fight for the available light.

It's certainly a deft bit of fantasy and a nice opening for what will obviously be a series of novels. The society is well constructed, with touches of magic and even some steampunk type flourishes in there. Not too much to tell you about the plot as that might spoil it, except it could do with a little more pace in the middle part as I found myself wishing it would pick up and burst into life sooner.

Francis Knight does have to be commended for not going for the cheap thrills, however. Read it and you will see what I mean. Unsavoury matters are handled with some delicacy and for me that's a plus as it means the author isn't padding it with the kind of tacky scenes some lesser writers would employ. It isn't a Mills and Boon book however, it's definitely adult material but written with a strong nod towards tastefully touching on unpleasant matters. I'm doing my best here folks, not to give too much away!

All in all it's a good read, lags a touch in the middle but some classy writing and a ton of imagination make up for it. Worth your money.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great first book, 3 Mar 2013
By 
Viki "Viki" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fade to Black: Book 1 of the Rojan Dizon Novels (Paperback)
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A very, very good story for a first in a series. Thoroughly enjoyable page- turner, extremely thought-provoking. Reminded me of Jim Butchers 'Harry Dresden' books, with a hero that didn't want to be one, a fantasy urban environment, magic and a touch of romance. Can't wait to read the next in the series!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and curious fantasy, 1 Mar 2013
By 
Mark Shackelford "mark shackelford" (Worthing, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fade to Black: Book 1 of the Rojan Dizon Novels (Paperback)
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The city is built vertically rather than horizontally - so where we would expect the rich and powerful to live (the West End) becomes the Top - and the poor and defenceless therefore live at the bottom.
The city is built in a valley and lends itself to a narrow, tall structure with little daylight penetrating the poor souls at the bottom (called the Pit).

Into this world we meet a variety of characters - some magicians, some of the rich and powerful, and a wide variety of specimens from all stratas (literally!) of society.

A clever idea - and well handled with excellent descriptions of the vertiginous city (not somewhere I personally could cope with!), plus an exciting tale of adventure, evil, bravery and the occasional weapons-grade stupidity.

I liked the hero, I liked the story, I loved the idea of the vertical City, and I hardly put the book down until I had finished it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars interesting premise, 22 May 2013
By 
H. Ashford "hashford" (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fade to Black: Book 1 of the Rojan Dizon Novels (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a dark city-based fantasy that, in its strangeness, reminded me of China Mieville's urban sci-fi. The vertical city is amazing - we start in the squalor of the lowest levels, where daylight hardly ever reaches and ghastly deeds can be concealed. The city is governed by a self-serving Ministry aided by a corrupt religion which keeps the underclass in their place.

The Rojan Dizon character is very well drawn. Not always likable, he can be sexist and sometimes cowardly, but he is definitely in 3 dimensions. He runs a huge risk in using his pain-mage powers, but it pays off for him as he uncovers the dark secrets of Mahala.

Highly recommended, only just falling short of 5*s.
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Fade to Black: Book 1 of the Rojan Dizon Novels
Fade to Black: Book 1 of the Rojan Dizon Novels by Francis Knight (Paperback - 26 Feb 2013)
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