Review: Fade to Black

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Fade to BlackFade to Black by Francis Knight
Series: Rojan Dizon #1
Published by Orbit on February 26, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Mystery, Paranormal, Science Fiction
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

From the depths of a valley rises the city of Mahala.

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 for ever.

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.

First Sentence: “I forced the door, nice and quiet, with my ever-so-slightly-illegal pulse pistol at the ready.”

Alright, I have a lot of fairly unpleasant things to say about Fade to Black, so I want to stress first and foremost that I don’t think this is a bad book. For some people, it’s probably even an incredibly delightful book, but I am not one of those people. Francis Knight’s Fade to Black is very much a “dude” book. Much as I don’t like to subscribe to gendered reading, this book will have more appeal with men, largely due to the portrayal of women.

Let’s start off with what I did like, because there was one thing. The world Knight created is dark, eerie, and fascinating. It’s a dystopian world, which, while obviously not a utopia in the beginning, has even blacker secrets underneath. The idea of this world thrusting high up into the sky, where people commute by shaking bridges, creates a strong mental image. It’s like nothing I’ve read before, though I’ve seen a couple of similar ones none were quite like Knight’s.

Knight also had an interesting concept with the pain mages. I both did and didn’t like this. The idea that they can convert the pain of themselves or others into magic is admittedly cool. I also thought the fact that the magic would corrupt the user was neat too, especially given the dark nature of the magic. Rojan’s struggles against using his magic are compelling, and pretty much the one sign that he might not be an asshat of a man.

On the other hand, though, the pain mages thing also allowed Knight to get pretty gruesome. I’m not usually easily grossed out by fiction because I’m not a visual reader. Where horror or gore on a television screen freaks me out instantly, I can read gory horror novels without a problem. Knight revels in the painful stuff, perhaps she even had to, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. I could not handle the descriptions of Rojan breaking his hand and then continuing to abuse it all through the book. I feel sympathetic twinges in my own hands now even as I type this. Whiles she obviously has writing talent to make me feel this way, I still found the whole ordeal highly unpleasant.

As mentioned previously, my biggest issue with Fade to Black is Rojan Dizon and his sexism. I would say Fade to Black reads a bit like an old school noir, where women are solely seen as sexual objects. Rojan has a firm belief that any woman will sleep with him and regularly has a number of women at any one time, all of whom seem to have been unaware that that was the case, based on their reaction at the beginning of the book. If he wants to sleep around, fine, but don’t lie to women about what you want from them. That’s so not cool. His attitude and the way he thinks about every single woman he meets made me want to kick him in his manparts with steel-toed boots.

There is one powerful woman, the fighter Jake, the only female who seems strong enough to have any sway in the world. She’s been dominating the underground fighting circuit. That sounds good, right? Well, not so much. Turns out she’s the only woman who’s not interested in him, so obviously it must be love. Insert eyeroll here. Then, later, we find out that the reason that Jake has no interest in Rojan or any of the other men is because she was sexually abused when she was younger, so the touch of a man turns her into a weak-willed, fearful creature just like every other woman. Fan-freaking-tastic. The strongest female character was actually a whore, who escaped from sexual abuse to open a whorehouse, which pretty much sums up what Knight thinks about women.

Fade to Black might be for you if you do not mind reading about men who are rampant sexists and enjoy gory descriptions, perhaps those who enjoy the exploits of James Bond. Sadly (or happily), that is not me.

Favorite Quote:

“‘You and, and – everyone’s cruel, life’s cruel, and so is death and so am I, and I intend to find out just how cruel I can be. So fuck you, Rojan, fuck you.'”

16 responses to “Review: Fade to Black”

  1. Nori says:

    Oh no! This is so sad because the cover made it seem so much more promising! I’m with you though: sexism can make anything bad.

  2. Yeah, you know what, Christina? Maybe you better hang on to this one. Just reading your review pissed me off. I can only imagine how angry this book will make me. Which is a shame because it sounds like bad-ass world building. Too bad the author is sexist. It’s unacceptable.

    • Christina says:

      The author himself might not be sexist, but there’s no doubt that his character is. Towards the end, he has a sort of epiphany, but even that is flawed, and I don’t buy that he’s a changed man.

  3. I think this is interesting since the author is a woman. I’d be curious to know what she sees as her portrayal of women in this book. I wanted to read to this one but I just might wait! 🙂

  4. Soma Rostam says:

    Wow. This is so sad. I love the idea of the world build upward and the pain mages. It is so fascinating. But such a disappointment
    GREAT review, Christina
    Your reader,

  5. Kat Balcombe says:

    Ah I was thinking I could get past the sexism and gore doesn’t bother me, and then you that it’s James Bond-esque and my decision was made.

  6. Kayla Beck says:

    I was interested in this one, but the whole woman not wanting a man because of sexual abuse thing is a real turn-off. It’s so overused and very much a cop out. It’s a small thing, yes, but I have too many other books to read. 🙁

  7. I was looking forward to ‘Fade to Black’ but after reading your review I am glad I did not buy it yet. I hate male-oriented books, kinda reminds me of Chronicles of Amber (Ok, there magic and world building got me so intrigued that I read the whole series but still I wanted to strangle Corwin). I think I will wait for this one to get to the library instead.
    I don’t know why but all the books I was hyped about and nervously expecting this year so far turned out to be rather boring or disappointing reads. Too high expectations maybe? But, on the other side, there were some surprises on unexpected places/books. 🙂

    • Christina says:

      I don’t mind male-oriented books in general, but I hate when they make it male by alienating the female audience so intentionally.

      That happens to me all the time. High hopes seem to ring a death knell!

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