Nina Kiriki Hoffman,
The Thread That Binds the Bones
(Avon, 1993)

Having thoroughly enjoyed my first foray into Nina Kiriki Hoffman's world, I was in a hurry to return. Fortunately, I had another novel close to hand, and I was quickly absorbed by The Thread That Binds the Bones.

While The Silent Strength of Stones focused on a small, splintered branch of Hoffman's magical family, Thread -- actually an earlier novel -- is like a full-blown family reunion.

Laura Bolte is an estranged sister, disaffected by the abuses of power committed by her kin. Reluctantly, she comes home for her brother's wedding and, en route, she meets janitor-cum-taxi driver Tom Renfield, whose simple fare to Chapel Hollow becomes a life-changing day.

Tom's life is quickly woven into that of the entire Bolte clan, but he isn't the simple outsider they expect him to be. His latent powers are equal to theirs, if not stronger, and with the help of a friendly ghost -- a revered Bolte ancestor, no less -- Tom is bound to shake up the family tradition.

Hoffman's modern mythos, set in the American northwest, leaves room for endless expansion and development. This, her first novel dealing with that world, is an excellent introduction to the makeup, mindset and politics of this powerful, secretive family.

Hoffman's characters are engaging and very grounded in their world. The powerless Trixie, for instance, is refreshingly real -- at times terrified by the events surrounding her, but remarkably adaptable and compassionate beyond words. Tom and Laura are charmingly romantic, even as circumstances force them to explore and expand their own capabilities. And Maggie, a wounded child looking for someone to trust, can break your heart with a word even as she bolsters your faith in human resilience.

The demarcation between good and bad isn't always clear, however. Some characters will surprise you before this book is done. Do yourself a favor and let Hoffman surprise you as soon as possible.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 27 September 2003

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