Fall of Light
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Cover Artist: Aleta Rafton
Review by Sam Lubell
Ace Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441014682
Date: 05 May 2009 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Nina Kiriki Hoffman has the reputation of being a writer's writer - her short story "Trophy Wives" recently won the Nebula, chosen by writers of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA). Despite this, her books are difficult to fit into the usual subgenres, featuring people who communicate with inanimate objects and quasi-spiritual powers and presences. By comparison, Fall of Light may be Hoffman’s most commercial book, tying into the public’s fascination with Hollywood and containing elements of the paranormal romance subgenre (and a cover clearly designed to play up this aspect of the novel). While the book is part of Hoffman’s series of loosely connected novels and stories about an extended family with magical powers (and the main character of this book previously appeared as a minor character in A Fistful of Sky) this book can be read completely independently of the earlier books (and nowhere on the cover is there any mention that this is part of a series.)
Opal LaZelle, a makeup artist for monster movies, comes from a family with secret magic talents. She can create illusions and change people’s appearances with her magic (although for her job she mostly does things the normal way). As the book opens, Opal is in charge of the effects turning Corvus Weather, an exceptionally tall actor, into the Dark God of a new monster movie. But gradually Corvus’ personality begins to split so some of the time he acts as if he really is the Dark God of the movie (which actually helps the other actors respond to him in character). Opal investigates and discovers that the movie is based on local legends. One of the writers of the movie grew up in the area and was inspired to write the movie by dreams, and the whole movie might be a plot by the old gods to wake again. But Opal has fallen in love with Corvus and decides to help him fight off the Dark God personality even if this means revealing her own powers and freeing her own hidden dark side (a common Hoffman theme).
Gradually, the monster and the man merge and Opal finds herself calling on the monster to frighten off a deranged stalker. And the Dark God seems more attracted to Opal than Covus does. But he clearly has his own agenda that goes beyond just making the movie, and he puts more people under his literal spell, culminating in what can only be described as an orgy. Frightened, Opal calls in her family. Her brother helps with a shield and her uncle, who taught the family magic, steps in, leaving Opal with a choice – accept his help and deny the independence for which she has struggled for years to gain, or trust her own talents and risk the future of Corvus and the entire film crew. It says something about Hoffman’s writing and the emphasis she places on character that this choice is the crux of the book rather than any confrontation with the Dark God.
Fall of Light can be read without reading the previous books in the series (most of which are unfortunately out of print). Fans of the new genre of paranormal romance or urban fantasy writers like Charles de Lint will feel right at home here. There is even a touch of horror (and the movie Opal and friends are making is clearly a horror/monster movie). All of Hoffman’s books are worth reading although I’d rank this one below The Thread that Binds the Bones or Fistful of Sky, but not too far behind them.