BEFORE THE FALL
Rojan Dizon is back and as cynical (and foul-mouthed) as ever in the sequel to Fade to Black. Returning to the grimy and depressing world of Mahala can feel exhausting at times, but luckily, the sharp dialogue and return of familiar characters — like tough-as-nails, unattainable love interest Jake — give the story levity and a winking sense of humor. The plot relies more on character interaction and mystery-solving than the first battle-heavy installment, weighing down the book from an action perspective but allowing heavier philosophical questions to emerge.
Bounty hunter Rojan Dizon and his ragtag team try and solve the brutal murders of Downsider boys, while also trying to restore power to the city. Rojan uses his talents to find and save the young fellow pain mages but, in the process, gets embroiled in a conspiracy that pits the strict religion of the Goddess and its fundamentalist priests against the world of magic, which could save the entire city. (ORBIT, Jun., 384 pp., $15.00)