The Rojan Dizon trilogy (Before the Fall, 2013; Fade to Black, 2013) doggedly trudges to its brutally stark conclusion.
The vertical city of Mahala is on the verge of collapse in several senses. The Storad are besieging the gates and will soon force their way inside. Mahala’s ruler, the Archdeacon Perak, has lost the support of his cardinals, who actively oppose his policies and are fleeing the city. The city guards are vastly outnumbered; the traitor Dench has revealed the city’s secrets to the Storad; and the downtrodden people see little reason to aid the splintering government in its desperate last stand. The slim hope of Mahala’s survival rests with the Archdeacon’s brother Rojan, one of the formerly outlawed (and still despised) pain mages, and their sister Lise, a brilliant engineer. While Knight’s worldbuilding shows a certain grim promise, her plotting and characterization could use a little work. There’s apparently no time for back story or supplemental storylines—the story just keeps moving forward with barely a twist or turn. This spare, unadorned approach toward plot makes it just a bit too clear very early on that the trilogy can end in only one way. And Rojan’s obliviousness to the painfully obvious mutual love between himself and the brothel keeper Erlat lacks credibility.
There’s definitely something here, but it’s not quite enough.