This is not a happy story. Fade to Black by Francis Knight is a noir fantasy tale, set in the dystopian, vertical city of Mahala. The wealthy, powerful and usually corrupt Ministry officials live in the sunshine and look down upon the impoverished living in the darkness below. The city is built building upon building and even by the end of the novel the city structure remains confusing. This, however, does not become an issue with the majority of the novel set in “The ‘Pit” which, officially, is an uninhabited pit where an old, toxic fuel has been dumped.
It is in The ‘Pit that the protagonist Rojan Dizon – a stubborn, misogynistic pain mage – must go to find a missing girl. Rojan is a deeply unlikeable character. Convinced he could talk any woman into bed, he has no problem keeping several girlfriends and can barely resist what is obviously an unwilling prostitute. In The ‘Pit, Rojan meets Jake, a tough fighter who seems to be the only female able to resist Rojan’s charm – so of course he falls in love with her. A completely pointless love triangle evolves, though luckily this does not have a great impact on the story.
This is not a novel for the light-hearted. On his journey in The ‘Pit, Rojan uncovers the dark, malevolent secrets of the city. Horrors lurk below the city of Mahala and you may find yourself thinking “this cannot get any worse”, before turning the page and realising that it can. If you can stomach it, Knight has imagined an amazing, detailed world and weaved it into a heart-stopping tale of corruption and intrigue.