A Vertigo-Inspiring Fantasy of Pain Magic, Corruption, and Murder: Francis Knight’s Rojan Dizon Trilogy

A Vertigo-Inspiring Fantasy of Pain Magic, Corruption, and Murder: Francis Knight’s Rojan Dizon Trilogy

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I’m a sucker for a great setting, and Francis Knight’s Rojan Dizon trilogy — which takes places in a towering city built layer upon layer, ascending to dizzying heights and ancient, shadowy depths; a city in the grips of a strange magic system based on pain — has a great setting. Knight has used the city of Mahala, which Library Journal says “recalls the vibrant, urban-based fantasies of China Miéville, Jay Lake, and Glen Cook,” as the setting for a complex and ambitious fantasy noir trilogy. It was published in trade paperback by Orbit in 2013, and I’ve been picking up the entire series for a couple bucks each at online remainder outlets this month.

Fade to Black (349 pages, $14.99 in trade paperback, $9.99 digital, February 26, 2013)
Before the Fall (384 pages, $15 in trade paperback, $9.99 digital, June 18, 2013)
Last to Rise (351 pages, $15 in trade paperback, $9.99 digital, November 26, 2013)

All three covers are by Tim Byrne.

The trilogy grew in acclaim as it progressed. Kirkus Reviews called the opening volume “Intensely realized and gripping,” and Booklist said it was “powerfully written, with a beautifully realized dystopian world and some thoroughly engaging characters.” And Publishers Weekly praised the closing volume, saying “The series, which has grown in complexity since the beginning, reaches a profoundly moving conclusion that is both unexpected and entirely satisfying.”

Here’s the description for the first volume:

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.

And Volume Two:


Rojan Dizon just wants to keep his head down. But his worst nightmare is around the corner.

With the destruction of their power source, his city is in crisis: riots are breaking out, mages are being murdered, and the city is divided. But Rojan’s hunt for the killers will make him responsible for all-out anarchy. Either that, or an all-out war.

And there’s nothing Rojan hates more than being responsible.

And finally Last to Rise:

The towering vertical city of Mahala is on the brink of war with its neighboring countries. It might be his worst nightmare, but Rojan and the few remaining pain mages have been drafted in to help.

The city needs power in whatever form they can get it — and fast. With alchemists readying a prototype electricity generator, and factories producing guns faster than ever, the city’s best advantage is still the mages. Tapping their power is a risky plan, but with food in the city running out, and a battle brimming that no one is ready for, risky is the best they’ve got…

The spectacular conclusion to the adventures of Rojan Dizon, which began with the thrilling fantasy debut Fade to Black.

All three books are still in print. All three are also available at substantially reduced prices BookOutlet, a remainder book seller whom I’ve been buying a lot of books from recently.

Fade to Black — $2.99
Before the Fall — $1.99
Last to Rise — $2.99

See all our recent Series Fantasy coverage here.

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Nick Ozment

This sounds like an intriguing series! Curious to hear if any other readers here at BG have read them.

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