Book Review: Fall of Light, by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Ace
307 pp

Fall of LightFall of Light is an indirect sequel to A Fistful of Sky; it involves Opal LaZelle, Gypsum’s older sister, who works as a makeup artist. She uses her magical talents to enhance the effects of her work, and her talents are very much in demand. She’s working on location in Oregon for a horror movie, transforming her romantic interest Corvus Weather into the main monster/villain of Forest of the Night, a horror movie of the “secret witch-cult” variety which is deeply amusing, consider that Opal is from a clan of magic-users.

Unfortunately, it turns out there really is a Dark God, an entity calling itself Phrixos that has a definite connection to the town, and who might be responsible for the disappearances of young women in the area for decades. Phrixos decides to take Corvus–and the movie production–over. This results in a battle of wills and magic between Phrixos and Opal, as well as a few panicked calls home, and a consultation from Opal’s Uncle Tobias. Phrixos gets into and out of trouble with the cast and crew, with Opal acting as unwilling “handler” and agent as she tries to find a way to permanently evict Phrixos–or find a way to deal with him, as his personality begins to blend in with the personality of Corvus.

(The name “Corvus” is an interestingly ominous name for an actor possessed by a “dark god.” I’m not certain whether it’s annoying or not that the entity–seems to be identifying with European Green Man imagery, when the being in question is later revealed to be one of a number of sleeping powers in the area. From the subtext, it is strongly implied however, that Phrixos is grabbing onto the predominant culture of the cast and crew.)

As is often the case with Hoffman, the major theme is about how people interact and fail to interact with each other. There is very little action, and while Phrixos is definitely creepy, he’s not played in the way you’d generally expect a “dangerous entity that possesses people” to be played. Instead, his domineering and arrogant personality traits are compared to the more obnoxious habits of other actors Opal has worked with. (Which are in turn compared to Opal’s uneasy relationship with her domineering and controlling mother, a woman who combines the overprotective behavior of a helicopter parent with the aspects of a neglectful, narcissistic one.)

Another theme of the novel involves the way Opal interacts with both her not-quite-boyfriend Corvus, and with the affects of Phrixos’ presence. It’s also very much about discovering what Phrixos is, what he’s up to, and what he wants–in the context of Opal also trying to understand the more negative aspects of her own personality, (a negative side that chooses to express itself as a stereotypical Goth.) In the end, things come to a more or less peaceful resolution, and we discover Phrixos’ goals, (which turn out to be he wants his name up in lights.)

I enjoyed the book, but I’ll admit that I mostly got Fall of Light in hopes of Gypsum turning up. (We only get a few brief mentions of her. The people Opal mostly talks to in this book are her mother, her uncle, and her brother Flint.) Opal is an interesting and engaging character however, and it’s interesting to see her from inside her point of view. The ending is an open one, and while some situations are resolved, there are still questions concerning Opal’s relationships and the fall out of people she knows discovering that she can use magic. I’m really hoping we get to see more LaZelle stories in the future.

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Filed under book, fantasy, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Review: Book

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