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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 on 15 Mar. 2013 by Liberty Gilmore

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6 of 6 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 23 months ago by Book Critic


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3.0 out of 5 stars No Pain, No Gain, 23 May 2013
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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 read more fantasy/crime mash ups that I ever thought possible. I've read about PIs of all types; Zombies, Witches, Wizards, Vampires, the list goes on, but invariably they are set in the underbelly of our own world. `Fade to Black' by Francis Knight is a book that follows Rojan Dizon a PI in the city of Mahala. This is a fantastical city ruled by The Ministry who keeps the population down. Rojan is quite happy to keep his head down and earn a few quid finding people. He is one of a few remaining Pain Mages whose magical powers are enhanced when he hurts himself, you can imagine that he does not like to practise too much, but when his Niece is kidnapped, it is a case of no pain, no gain.

The ideas in `Fade' are great. The city itself is a wonderful character, built in a relatively narrow mountain pass, the people have dug down to expand, rather than out. This means that the poor live in the polluted lower city, the rich get to feel the natural light up top. The concept of Pain Mages is also well thought out; what is someone like Rojan willing to do for family - his power increases exponentially with the amount of pain he inflicts on himself.

As this is book one of Rojan's journey, it does feel at times more of a travelogue than a full story. We are introduced to a few characters, but mostly it a story told on the run from place to place. Whilst the city of Mahala shines, the characters are not given quite enough to develop. At its core `Fade' is a Sam Spade feeling crime novel set in a fantastical world; Rojan quips his way through various violent encounters. For this reason I found it a fun and breezy read. The `Big Bad' is often mentioned, but seldom seen in `Fade'. Not enough threat is put on the characters to make their ordeal satisfactory. With more adventures with Rojan planned, I would hope a sense of real menace would be ratcheted up to give future encounters more tension. Still a very fun read for fantasy fans.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fade to Black., 20 Mar. 2013
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J. Mcdonald "Yelochre" (Glasgow, 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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As a debut novel and the first in a projected trilogy, Francis Knight's "Fade to Black" gets off to a good start.

Her vision of a vertical, multi-tiered city with it`s defined social strata and dark, underlying secrets to match, has an almost Dickensian/Gustave Doré feel to it, albeit inspired - as she acknowledges - by "Blade Runner". Rojan Dizon, the anti-hero and lead-character of the story, is a little clichéd in a hard-boiled detective-fiction way; I`ve encountered this mix of genres before - I`d be surprised if other readers of dark fantasy haven`t - but it works well enough.
Rojan is a small-time PI of sorts, dealing with missing persons and runaways, a choice he makes in order to exploit his own dark secret - he's a pain-mage and that's a trait that could get him into serious trouble if it were known to the authorities. When he gets involved in the abduction of his niece, he finds himself up to his neck in a world of dystopian nightmare... otherwise it wouldn't be such a good read, would it?
Rojan is an interesting character; sexist, flawed, but generally a good sort, our first-person window into this world.
The writing is fairly strong in character description and development, though I found myself re-reading some paragraphs - I`m quite good at visualising environments, but Knight's concepts of the city layout were at times difficult to take in - there's a fine sense of the kind of corrupt society, religion and history that forms Mahala.
The subjects dealt with are, on the whole, very dark indeed.
As this is intended as part of a trilogy, I`m assessing the book with that in mind.

Though I liked the novel, Knight could do with tightening up some of her prose; a little more clarity in description of surroundings, how things work, etc., would improve it`s impact, but on the whole this was a good foundation for the other novels to follow on; the fact that I want to know what happens in the next book is a good indication to me that Knight has delivered a sterling piece of urban fantasy.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An intersting newcomer to fantasy genre, 5 Jun. 2013
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KalteStern (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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This is the kind of novel where it is important that the author has thought it all through properly, if there is going to be any suspension of disbelief, and happily in this case she has put the work in. The basic background of the multi-tiered city of Mahala all hangs together quite well, as does the concept of the pain magic and pain mages, that form the basis of both its religion and its previous ruling elite. This reader assumes that the author is in effect laying the foundations for a whole series of potential adventures involving this setting and main character, of which this is just the first episode.
To my mind, this made a fairly refreshing change from the kind of faux-Renaissance-Europe with-a-few-rewrites that forms such a staple of much fantasy fiction these days, and she did not get too bogged down in excess exposition in the early stages. The plot moves along fairly briskly, and did leave me quite interested in reading more about this world in due course.
The only aspect that jarred with me was related to her choice of a male protagonist, written in the first person. Because the plot involves exploitation of females including children, she was obviously anxious to avoid the making her main character appeared too sexist or crass, but I did find her portrayal of his thinking psychologically unconvincing at various points. But an interesting newcomer, nonetheless , and I wonder if any so if any sequel will be set within the main city or outside it
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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
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Whitehatter "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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5.0 out of 5 stars 'I hate when I have to stop pretending to be a cynic', 24 May 2013
This review is from: Fade to Black: Book 1 of the Rojan Dizon Novels (Paperback)
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I thought this was an excellent dark fantasy, set in a world that was thoroughly believable while I was reading it.
Characters are generally well fleshed-out, and the hero is attractive, endearing and occasionally infuriating as a good main character should be. Rojan is a pain mage, able to work magic by hurting himself and his reluctance to perform his magic is understandable. Under a veneer of cynicism, he is a man who feels deeply, and in his world there is much to feel deeply about and his frustration increases as he gradually finds out how the well-ordered world of 'above' is supported by the horrors of the world 'below', where pain channelled into magic need not be the pain of the mage himself.
His world is a vertical one. Lack of space has led to building piled upon building, with the poor in darkness and poverty at the bottom and the rich living in the 'clouds', The story is gritty, with dark humour and genuine feeling.
I think this will be the start of an excellent series,
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3.0 out of 5 stars Has the potential to be much more impressive and intense, 21 Oct. 2013
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Amazoniac (Norwich) - 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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Set in a grim future world, Fade to Black is a tale of a dystopian city struggling to find a secure energy source, something that chimes with our current problems. After a supposed miracle energy source, synth, is found to be a toxic death sentence after it enters the water system, the government scrabbles to find a safe alternative.
Rojan, a surly, cynical private detective is dragged into the mystery surrounding this new power source, endangering everyone he cares about.
This novel manages to combine sorcery and magic with a futuristic world without making it seem too daft. The story has the potential to be much more impressive and intense, however, the mood is often diluted with explicit language intended to convey Rojan's bad-boy attitude, something that isn't really necessary.
The first in a series of books about Rojan, this novel was a good read but I don't think I'll be following up with another instalment.
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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
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars interesting premise, 22 May 2013
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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)
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Great futuristic urban fantasy, 22 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Fade to Black: Book 1 of the Rojan Dizon Novels (Paperback)
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A bit of a mish-mash of genres, this book could struggle. There is enough difficulty in establishing a real world for a first novel, but Francis Knight does exceptionally well in creating realistic characters, places and situations.

There is the hard-boiled Chandleresque hero in the semi-near future (think Blade Runner or Dredd) in a gritty underbelly area (Mega-City One, Coruscant) mixed with smattering of real-world magick (Dresden files).

The story itself is solid but it is the protagonist who drives the book on. Dixon is a potentially great character - laconic, jaded yet ultimately honourable.

A great start to an interesting series.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly Enjoyed this debut, 1 Mar. 2013
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fade to Black: Book 1 of the Rojan Dizon Novels (Paperback)
Fantasy is something that can be very hard to get right. You need to have solid world building, a set of rules for the magick's involved, a convincing history and then you have to work out your various cultures giving them an identity. All that and more were carefully added within this title and when Francis backed that up with a great storyline, top notch prose alongside a cast that really adds flavour all round makes this a cracking debut.

I really can't wait to see what develops in future instalments and here's hoping that the second book curse doesn't strike as this is going to give me something to look forward to. Great stuff.
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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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