This standalone novel, set in the same world as Hoffman's A Fistful of Sky, features that novel's main character's sibling, Opal. Opal is a makeup artist for Hollywood films, and her specialty is special effects makeup. Her current film is a horror movie that is being filmed in a remote town in Oregon, and her job is to transform Corvus, the tall, sexy actor she secretly fell in love with during a previous film, into an otherworldly forest deity.
Opal's skills with makeup are enhanced by her own magical talents - her abilities enable her to transform things that the light falls upon, so Corvus's complex makeup is a bit easier for her than it would be for most makeup artists. But it isn't long before she realizes that there is something odd happening on the set. The story was written by a local writer, who was inspired by an urban legend surrounding the clearing in the forest where so much of the film takes place. When Corvus is in his makeup, something odd happens - something else speaks from inside him, and there is an eerie light in his eyes. Those horns that suddenly sprout from his head are not of Opal's making - although she has to admit, they make him look even better than her original design.
The strange events may or may not be a threat - but as Opal sees Corvus disappearing as a powerful being takes over his consciousness, she becomes alarmed. As she marshals her resources to protect herself and those she cares about, she is forced to confront the darker parts of herself, parts that she sealed off years earlier, when she was prone to a careless misuse of her powers.
I have enjoyed every book I've read so far by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, and this one is certainly no exception. The magic is an integral part of the story, and it feels real and believable, as do the characters, who are complicated, multidimensional people. Opal is strong and fragile at the same time, and I enjoyed watching her come to terms with her past, as well as those parts of herself that she has kept so carefully shut away. The plot veers in surprising directions, and while the ending came a little too quickly, with not enough denouement for my taste, it was a satisfying conclusion all the same. I hope Hoffman will write more stories about Opal and her fascinating family.
Reading this one has made me want to go back and reread some of her older books. They are the sort of books that have such a strong sense of place, and the place is a comforting place to return to. Fans of Tanya Huff in particular would be likely to enjoy these books, too.
Other reviews of books by Nina Kiriki Hoffman:
A Stir of Bones
Spirits That Walk in Shadow
Fall of Light by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Ace Books, 2009)
Also reviewed at:
Bitten by Books: "Nina Kiriki Hoffman is a masterful storyteller, and her characters are well-developed and likable. Opal is not entirely good or evil, and the struggle that she goes through to achieve a balance between the two is completely realistic."
I Read What??: "It’s not your standard cookie cutter magic user universe, there are facets that are beautiful and awful. The reader’s exploration of these facets is the enjoyable part of the experience."