Spirits That Walk in Shadow by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (amazon.com)
I always feel that Hoffman should be more hyped than she is. Her fantasy novels are so inventive, and she has a talent for creating engaging characters. Spirits that Walk in Shadow features Jamie, who appeared in the earlier novel The Thread that Binds the Bones. However, I don’t think you would have to read the first book in order to appreciate the second.
Jamie comes from a clan of people who all have magical powers based on the elements. Jamie’s sign is Air, so she can manipulate the atmosphere to make it easy to move objects without touching them, dry her hair without a blow dryer, and communicate across long distances. Some of her relatives were abusive, so she views college as a way to escape her past. She want to make a study of “normal people”, especially boys.
Unfortunately Jamie’s new roommate Kim seems to be gripped with a peculiar kind of despair. Kim is tremendously talented at art, but not very talented at making friends. Things changed for her in high school when a new girl in school named Shanaia adopted her as her best friend. But when they had a falling-out, Kim sunk into a depressive fog, letting her artistic talents go to waste.
Spirits that Walk in Shadow is told in chapters that switch back and forth between the narrative voices of the two main characters. Kim has to adjust to Jamie bringing a household god to live in their dorm room, while Jamie begins to realize that Kim’s depression has unnatural origins. With the aid of some of Jamie’s “evil cousins” who also attend their college, the new roommates try to investigate the cause of Kim’s sadness.
The novel is fast-paced, with most of the events taking place over orientation week at college. Hoffman’s vivid descriptions of Jamie’s magic and Kim’s artistic visions make the inner lives of the characters come alive. If you like fantasy novels with a contemporary setting you’ll enjoy Spirits that Walk in Shadows.
As a side note, I wanted to say thanks to everybody who’s been shopping at amazon via this site. It does help feed my book/manga addicition, and I really do appreciate it. 🙂