The New Age-y na vet of the plot and characters, as much as the easy and inexplicable magic, reduce Hoffman's latest to a read for the initiated only. The sexless witch Matilda ""Mattie"" Black and her magically gifted companion, Edmund Reynolds, who wandered through the Stoker Award-winning A Red Heart of Memories (1999), are now reunited with friends from the past, all squatters in a benignly haunted house. They speak to inanimate objects--garbage cans, automobiles, earth, air, even the house itself. They cast spells and envelope people and objects in nonburning flames. One of the group, Julio, was abducted as a child by a sinister magician; when he escaped, he carried a second personality, which named itself ""Tabasco,"" for a bottle on a table. Now, however, Julio has been transformed into a woman called Lia. Another presence, Nathan, hanged himself in the house years before, but lives on. Hoffman has received praise for vivid fantasy, but here this amounts to a fuzzy concern with spiritual union with all the universe, wrapped in prose disconcertingly given to exclamations such as ""Yow!"" and ""Wow!"" (Feb. 6) Forecast: Hoffman has her fans, but she's not going to gain many more with this piece of work.