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Fall of Light by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Opal LaZelle is a makeup artist, specializing in monsters and the grotesque. She’s excellent at what she does—partially because she applies more than makeup to her creations. Because Opal comes from a magical family, where every member has magical gifts and abilities—and Opal can change someone’s face with a touch and a thought.

On the set of the horror movie Forest of the Night, Opal is in charge of Corvus Weather, the Dark God of the movie. But it soon becomes apparent that Corvus is sinking too deeply into the role, and Opal realizes that something is possessing him. There is an ancient power in this town, a power that wants to rise again and is using Corvus—and the movie—as its vehicle. And while Opal may be the only person on the set who realizes the enormity of the danger, she may not be strong enough to stop it.

A Fistful of Sky is my favorite Nina Kiriki Hoffman book, and one of my favorite books in general, so I had high hopes for Fall of Light. Unfortunately, I really didn’t like it very much at all. I think it was missing a lot of what I loved about the LaZelles in Fistful—the introspect of the way their family magic works, and the interplay of the family and magical people and magic being common and accepted. It DID have the other trademark of Nina Hoffman’s work that I love so much—the way normal, nonmagical people accept magical events pretty easily.

I know it’s not fair to expect it to be the same book as Fistful, especially because Hoffman, maybe more than any other writer, never writes the same book twice. But I felt like it was missing some of the elements that made me love Fistful so much.

I also felt like the ending was no ending at all—it was so open-ended that I feel completely unsatisfied. Nothing was tied up—not the Dark God plotline, not Opal and Corvus’s budding romance, not the state of the movie people, not the state of Inner Opal. It definitely left me thinking, but not in a thoughtful way—more in a “what just happened” way. It felt almost like a setup for a sequel, but I can’t even imagine where a sequel would go or what it would do, and that certainly doesn’t feel like Nina Hoffman’s style.

There were other things that bothered me, too. I thought Blaise was a fascinating character, and it felt like we were only shown a glimpse of her. Hoffman teeters on the edge of making her the blond bitch versus an intriguingly ambitious woman. The ongoing concerns about Erika and leaked photos to the press just sort of goes away. The very nature of the Last of the Lost, and what it wanted with girls in the 50s, and what it’s doing to the current townfolk—never addressed.

I don’t need every question answered in my fiction—sometimes you just don’t get to know the answer, and I like that. Not every loose end is tied up—that feels honest and real, even when it’s frustrating. It’s just when NONE of the loose ends are tied up that I’m left feeling out of sorts.

I will definitely keep eagerly devouring Nina Hoffman’s new books as quickly as she can write them, but I think she really missed the mark with this one. Hopefully there will be more books with the LaZelle family to make up for it. Dare I hope for a book featuring Flint?
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January 2016

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