cover image Before the Fall

Before the Fall

Francis Knight. Orbit, $15 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-316-21770-5

Knight’s second Rojan Dizon novel wisely veers away from the fantasy clichés that peppered Fade to Black. While traces of the wisecracking, womanizing pain mage Rojan remain, these characteristics no longer compose his entire character. The story has more complexity and depth, exploring Rojan’s feelings of guilt over bringing down the torture factory that provided power to the vertical city of Mahala; that emotional angst mirrors the physical pain he inflicts upon himself to access his magic. As the impoverished society crumbles, Rojan’s brother, Perak, the newly appointed Archdeacon of the ruling Ministry, asks atheist Rojan to discover who is behind a string of child murders that have added an explosive fury to the frustration and hunger experienced by the underclass. The investigation gives Rojan conflicting loyalties to a brother he doesn’t entirely trust and friends he doesn’t completely understand. Most rewardingly, quirky sidekick Pasha emerges here as a complex, conscientious counterpoint to Rojan’s cynicism. These marked improvements and an intriguingly inconclusive ending bode well for the future of the series. (June)