It's several weeks after FADE TO BLACK. Rojan and Dendal have set up a licensed mage business but not everyone in Mahala's got the message that magic is now legal. Tensions have been running high since the Downworlders came up from below, the hostilities with the Upworlders fuelled by the fact that with the Pit shut down for good there's a chronic power shortage, which Rojan and Pasha are trying to rectify by using their magic to power a generator built by Dwarf and Lise.
But Mahala's enemies sense its weakness and are beginning to lay siege. Dwarf and Lise are trying to build batteries to solve the blackouts while Rojan looks for more pain mages to help power it. So far their attempts have come to nothing and the last thing Rojan needs is for someone to start murdering Downworlder boys. With the city a tinder box, it won't take much for Mahala to turn in on itself and as always, Rojan is right in the middle of it ...
Francis Knight's fantasy noir sequel to FADE TO BLACK is richly imagined and really explores the consequences and fall-out from the first book. However, for me the plot took too long to get going and although I enjoyed Rojan's inner battle with the blackness that threatens to drag him into full on mage insanity, his constant protestations as to his amorality wear thin as there is no danger of him not doing the right thing. There are some good twists but the overall feeling is one of filler and as such, although I didn't enjoy it as much as the first book I will definitely read the conclusion to the trilogy.
The main issue for me is that the plot takes too long to get going. The set-up of the murders comes early but it takes Rojan too long to make the link that the reader guesses immediately and then there's little impetus to his investigation as he gets distracted by other plot strands. I enjoyed the exploration of his relationship with Perak and especially Pasha who calls him on his behaviour but some of the character deaths are dealt with too easily and are little more than there to move the plot.
There's a great twist at the end and a set up for an interesting final book, which I will definitely be reading.