Smack In The Back



Today’s review is brought to you by the letter D, as in…defining a genre.

For the last four years I have taken for granted that my readers know the details of genres when I bring them up. Thriller, paranormal, high-fantasy…all of these words flow out of my mouth without a single thought. I assumed as a reader you knew what you were picking up. But it wasn’t until the rise of New Adult last year that I realized this might not actually be the case. I have to admit, this kinda of shocked me.

Despite the fact that I apparently assume too much, my biggest concern was for readers themselves. How exactly can you find a book you will like if you don’t know what TYPE of book you enjoy? I can offer up suggestions all day long, but if your thing is mystery and I flash-deal you contemporary young adult, chances are…you’re going to be a tad bit disappointed. So that’s why today (for the sake of understanding what kind of book “Fade to Black” is) I’m going to throw around my limited education.

If you look closely at the back cover of this book it claims to have noir roots. For those of you that enjoy classic crime dramas from the 40’s and 50’s you probably know what I’m talking about. For those of you that don’t… Noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Cynical and sexual…those are very important words.

But FTB is not all smokey bars and snarky men, it’s also an Urban Fantasy. UF is, well, pretty self-explanatory, it is primarily in a city setting and contains aspects of fantasy (mythical creatures, magic, paranormal entities…you get the idea.) The only real difference between this fantasy genre and other genres (say…mystery or thriller) is that they are generally told via first-person narrative. As is the case in FTB.

The combination of the two genres makes this book a dark one. Both literally and figuratively. Set in a world surrounded by corrupt government officials and magic gone haywire (the more pain you are in the stronger your powers are) the characters in this book find themselves in numerous very sticky situations, high-lighted by pages and pages of bitter sarcastic reverie.

But first…how about I let you read the synopsis.

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.

If you were to go strictly by my star rating chances are you’d think I disliked that book. That’s not the case. In the overall scheme of things this book was incredibly original and had an action packed plot sure to entice even the most skeptical fantasy reader. Unfortunately, no amount of originality can make up for poor execution. And that my dear readers is the downfall of this novel.

Banking on intricate world building instead of character building left this story feeling stale, and while I am a fan of complicated scenes and breathtaking descriptions, no amount of flowery detail can make up for a lack of character chemistry. Long story short, if the sparks between reader and protagonist (or villain for that matter) don’t fly, the book is going to flop. Rojan had all the characteristics of a great noir/urban fantasy character. He had wit, bled sarcasm, and internalized enough self loathing and female appreciation to stand with like personalities in the genre (for example Harry Dresden) but for some reason there was a huge disconnect. Instead of being interesting he came across as predictable. It wasn’t until the last 10% that I really started to enjoy him, but by that point it was almost too late.

The most intriguing character wasn’t even a main character at all, which just goes to show you that Knight HAS the ability to write aww worthy material, Rojan just wasn’t it.

As for the plot itself. It was a great story. Think human trafficking with a magic kicker. The beginning may be a little slow (and felt like it took me a month to read) but it ended with one hell of a bang.

Overall…this is not a book for everyone. It’s probably a book for very few. It’s very detailed, slightly abstract and has wobbly characters. I say…take a pass. There are plenty of fantastic Urban Fantasies out there that hit high in all marks. This just isn’t one of them.

Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” – Confucius

Rating Report
Overall: 2.8

About Misty

Your friendly neighborhood narcissist. I'm sarcastic, cynical and a bit cranky. I own a soap box so big that sometimes I have difficulty stepping down off of it, and I'm about 94% certain I have multiple personalities. I don't sleep enough, and I read more than any person should ever consider normal. I have anger management issues, especially when I'm stuck in traffic and I have an unhealthy obsession with my Kindle. I am a vampire lovin', zombie obsessed, book-in-hand, iPod freak. You either love me or hate me. You be the judge.