elspeth's ephemeral musings

Fire bad, tree pretty!

Fade to Black

Fade to Black - Francis Knight Disclaimer: This review may contain spoilers.First of all I want to say that in reading this book I get the feel the author is not a big fan of organized religion. If you have issues with this I recommend you to not read this book, it will offend you.I’d call the people entering “worshippers” for want of a better word – most of them only went into get out of the rain. But they gave thanks, Goddess knows what for, poor bastards, and they gave alms. They never wondered, never thought that they were the ones who needed the alms. In the churches Over, no bastard gives a lousy coin. These fools gave because then they were better, weren’t so love they couldn’t afford a bit of charity. It was a piss-poor way to feel better about yourself, and I couldn’t even bring myself to do that any more.Mahala, a city where in ages past mages used to run the everything on pain magic until the mage king was overthrown, and religion took over. Where a chemical called synth was created to fill the role of the now illegal pain mages, only to be found out years later to be toxic. Scrambling to find a way to keep the machinery, the lifeblood of the city running the mysterious Glow was created. Nobody knows where it comes from or how it’s made until now.Meet Rojan, a man hiding from a lot of things, including you learn later on, himself. Rojan is a pain mage with a knack for finding people, he uses it to his advantage searching for easy bounties. In the beginning Rojan isn’t the most likable man, but though out the book he grows as a person. Rojan is quite the cad, he also doesn’t like to think to hard about how the city around him is changing. How children are disappearing, and how the church is slowly becoming more, and more cold. Temples held no interest for me, not any more. I watched the poor deluded fools going into a bland, white-washed box instead of the temples we used to have, before the Ministry tightened the strings on our souls, before they got rid of anything remotely joyful. It had been a slow, insidious path from gloriou8s Ministry revolution, saving us from the corrupt mage King, to this. At first they’d been benevolent dictators. One little step at a time, but all those little steps over decades added up to total control of mind and body.Rojan gets a message from his estranged brother, he is in the hospital, his wife has been killed, and his daughter gone. With years filled with guilt over a fight he had with his younger brother, Rojan starts to feel the weight of family obligations, of possibly righting some of the wrongs he did in the past. This is the start of Rojan growing as a character, there are a few more scenes where you can immediately see the changes. This was a big win for me, I like when there is personal growth along with story progression. I would have been seriously disappointed if Rojan didn’t grow up a lot in this book. What Rojan goes through to save his niece, what he learns about the politics in his city would break a weaker man. I loved this part of the book, it was just so emotionally powerful, the instant growth of character. ”What are you doing?” I found my voice at last. “This is torture. You’re no better than they are, no better than the Ministry. At least Ministry just kill people. They don’t see them in agony first.”Pasha stopped at my voice, and the gun was pointing at my face again. There was no quivering this time. “You think? Come and take a look.”I hesitated; I wanted nothing to do with this. Even if the mages were kidnapping girls, for whatever reason, I wasn’t sure they deserved this. Prison, yes; long slow torture, no. “Come on.” He was glaring at me, his eyes hot and frantic with some emotion I could only guess at. One of the men to my side drew a fun from inside his jacket……I only knew that his transformation from wizened, comical monkey to avenging angel was scaring me badly. He heaved the door open and a waft of fetid air rushed out, making him gag a little as he let the door clang open.“This is the hole, where they put them when they’re done, when they’ve used them up,” he said, gesturing into the dark with his gun. “The girls here are ones they’ve finished with, mostly, which is why they’re easy to find, because they don’t care about them any more. A body can only take so much, they hand them to the goons to take their please in what’s left. Look in.”I felt the prod of a gun barrel at my side. I had no choice, but I didn’t want to look down there, I didn’t want to see what had made this mouse of a man so ferocious, or why others thought torturing the people who owned it was of no consequence……“Look,” he said, and there was such a dead, defeated quality to his voice I could do nothing other than obey…I swallowed hard. I had a sudden knowledge of what I was going to see when I managed to aim the lamp into the dark mouth of the hole. The stench warned me, and I tried not to breathe as I looked down……I’d been jolted out of my comfortable existence, where I’d been peripherally aware that not everyone had my style of life but sure that, the Ministry notwithstanding, there had been a reverence for life; that something like this would not, could not go on… This book was very emotionally powerful, with side characters full of depth, both strong and yet so fragile. Rojan being thrust upon this world where he knows nothing of the hardships, both helps and hurts the people around him. This also helps him grow, for in the end when Rojan has a choice to make what impacts him the most is not himself, it is others that he is thinking of. A once selfish man, thinking only of himself sacrificing for the good of others. Making this, a story that could have been so dark, a story of hope and redemption.I really enjoyed this book, and am excited for the next installments. *Draft Two