Monday, May 11, 2009

Fall Of Light - Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Fall Of Light
Nina Kiriki Hoffman


Opal LaZelle comes from a family with magical gifts. Each person’s gift manifests in a different way. Opal’s strength lies in manipulating the appearances of things. Unlike the rest of her siblings, Opal ventures into the wider world to make a life for herself as a makeup artist in the movie industry. She’s becoming quite well known for her special effects makeup. While on a set, Opal takes care to use her non-magical talents to transform the actors. She’s not really anxious to be known as a witch.

During the filming of a new horror movie, Opal works exclusively with Corvus Weather, a seven-foot-tall character actor who will be playing the Dark God. She’s worked with Corvus before and may be in love with him. Each day, they spend several hours applying prosthetics, makeup, and paints to transform the gentle giant into a nature deity.

One of the writers of the film grew up in the small town they’re using for location filming. The writer used half-remembered stories from her childhood for the script about something powerful that lived in the woods and perhaps made off with young girls. Now an adult, the writer admits that it was scary as a kid, but that the girls in question probably just left the backside-of-nowhere town for greener pastures elsewhere. Opal isn’t so sure. Since the day she set foot in the clearing, complete with stone altar, being used to film various scenes, she’s felt some unfamiliar power under the ground. It feels like something very large, stirring from a long sleep. As the days go by, Corvus’ transformations become a little too easy and much too complete. He’s becoming something other than what he was, and Opal isn’t at all sure that she can get ‘her’ Corvus back again.

This is a sort of fantasy/horror story that manages to maintain an air of real menace without resorting to gruesome gore. It’s the slow build-up that makes it all believable. The juxtaposition of Opal’s magical nature and the unknown power with the fairly mundane day-to-day operations of a movie set works wonderfully. Both Opal and Corvus are sympathetic characters. Both feel more than a little like outsiders; both glad to have found an industry that accepts them, and to have found each other. The ending feels a bit abrupt, but that’s a relatively minor quibble. The storytelling is wonderful. The whole thing reads like a dark fairy tale. I’ll be looking for more from this talented author.

Rating: 8 ½
May 2009
ISBN# 978-0-441-01468-2 (hardcover)


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