Title: One Foot in the Fade (The Fetch Phillips Novels #3)
Author: Luke Arnold
Publication date: April 26, 2022
One Sentence Summary: When Fetch comes face to face with the last Genie, who has been attempting to use her powers to save desperate magical creatures and failing miserably, he ends up setting out on an adventure with her, but at a cost.
One Foot in the Fade is the third in the Fetch Phillips series. It features Man for Hire Fetch Phillips, a Human working hard for the past seven years to bring the magic back. But, too often, he seems like the only one trying to bring it back, because Humans have taken advantage and have pushed the city forward, bringing the magical creatures along with it if they want to survive. Until Fetch meets Khay, the last Genie, and the hopes of bringing the magic back. One part mystery and one part adventure story, One Foot in the Fade mostly felt like it was focused on world building and character development, but leaves off on an interesting note that shifted quite a few things for me, and I look forward to what’s next.
Man for Hire Fetch Phillips is just a Human trying to bring back the magic, but it’s been seven years. When an Angel, with feathers on his wings, falls from the sky, he thinks it might be coming back. But it leads him on a chase for someone who leaves burn marks on the victims, bringing him face to face with the last Genie. Khay believes she can use her powers to restore a magical creature’s powers, but might not have enough cursed jewelry to make it work properly. With Fetch at her side, and a small motley crew, they set off for the wizard city of Incava, stumbling across more than they expected with the future staring them down.
Where the first book, The Last Smile in Sunder City, felt more like it focused on world and character development and the second book, Dead Man in a Ditch, felt more like it was focused on the forward progress Sunder City as a whole was trying to make, One Foot in the Fade felt like a blend. The world was opened up in this installment and Fetch was forced through a few changes and shifts in perspective. There’s also a lot of forward progress the world as a whole is doing, finding a way to live without magic and letting go of the past. Fetch felt like something of a relic, but the focus on his character development went a long way to smoothing out the story for me.
Just like in the previous novels, the mystery is thin and actually solved really early on. Though it was a lot of fun watching Fetch stumble his way to that. No, One Foot in the Fade felt more like an adventure story to me. Half of it was set in Sunder City and half was basically on the road towards Incava. I did like how the murder mystery actually kind of bobbed and wove through the city. It faded completely in the middle, but I liked how it was set up and how it ended up being resolved at the end. Actually, the end felt like the strongest part of the novel for me. The first half felt a little slow, but I liked the focus on the mystery. Most of the second half was an adventure and it felt like it meandered a little to me, with forward progress constantly being hampered by small events. But the ending really pulled the story together with a surprising amount of feeling, as well as an interesting shift in not just Fetch, but also, possibly, the overarching story to this series.
I felt a little torn about leaving Sunder City. Fetch has wandered away from it before, but he was away for almost half the novel this time. It was nice, though, to get to see more of the world and experience the crazy place the wizards live in. It was interesting to get to see how they were trying to pull through in a post-magical world as well as how it might have an impact on the wider story. I also really liked the introduction of a secret society called the Bridge, which is dedicated to finding a way to bring the magic back. But I wish more of the story had been set in Sunder City. With Humans seemingly taking advantage and introducing all these nifty gadgets like guns and microwaves, I’m intrigued by how well the magical city is adapting to this new way of life. It felt like most were actually adjusting a lot better than Fetch was, which made me question why he was holding on so tightly. It also makes me wonder if there’s a darker undercurrent to what the Humans have planned. Still, it was nice to see so many magical creatures beginning to find their feet and a new purpose.
One Foot in the Fade often felt like its purpose was to further develop Fetch’s character. I found myself both frustrated and impressed by him throughout the novel. His reasoning for just jumping on Khay’s case was flimsy and not at all thought out. From the beginning it felt like a wild goose chase, so Fetch throwing himself into it was, well, within character, but also kind of head scratching to me as a reader. But it was a good launching point for Fetch to evolve as a person. The journey forced him into situations he was uncomfortable with, so it was nice to see shifts in him. By the end, he felt very different from where he was at the beginning, and it also felt like a shift in the overarching story was occurring at the same time.
As much as the adventure part of this story was a bit of a struggle for me, I really liked the group: Genie Khay, witch Eileen, Human financier with more to his story that anyone else knows Lazarus, and hired mercenary Theo. I loved the way they played off each other and carried their weight. They were a lot of fun, and just the right group for Fetch to be caught up in. But Khay was the most important one of the group. She was fascinating in that she was morally gray, trying desperately to do something good, but was she really? I loved that I couldn’t figure her out, that there were times when she leaned one way or the other. But I could certainly understand her desperation. It’s just that sometimes the creatures who were supposed to help her attain her goal were slowing things down too much for her. I never got the sense that time was running out for her, so it sometimes felt more like a walk in the park.
One Foot in the Fade offers an interesting and fun mystery and adventure story. It nicely widens the world and offers a little more history, as well as some fascinating revelations. But it felt more focused on Fetch’s development, which, honestly, was sorely needed to help keep this series fresh. I look forward to what’s in store for him next, as well as where the story and world are going. There were some things I had to suspend belief to get past, but, overall, I found this to be largely pleasant and a lot of fun.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Angela Man at Orbit for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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