Series: Blackhollow Academy #1
A girl who uses her illusions to fool the world into thinking she's just like all the other magi.
A dragon who sees through her lies.
Together they just might survive a world that wants to control or destroy them both.
Kimberly may wield ultimate cosmic power, but even a mage has to pay the rent. No one will hire her for her magic talents until she's got the credentials, so she’s stuck in a crappy rent controlled apartment with her mother, yearning for treats she can't afford at her part time job in a café, counting down the days until she graduates the secret Blackhollow Academy school for magi. Only then will she have the certificate she needs to land her dream job in a coven.
The problem? She needs a familiar to graduate.
As an illusionist, she doesn't have the ability to summon or create a familiar of her own. Her only option is to convince a supernatural creature to let her bind it instead. Since having a powerful Other at her beck and call would guarantee her a place in a coven after she graduates—and legendary treasure hoards are an added bonus—she thinks binding a dragon as her familiar will solve all her problems...
Because sometimes a girl needs a dragon, not a knight....
I have mixed feelings about Smoke and Mirrors. I was intrigued by its description as an urban fantasy with a dragon shifter. The story’s backdrop has marked similarities to that of many other urban fantasies, though that’s tough to avoid in a saturated genre.
About 70% of the novel, however, follows a paranormal romance formula hitting all the milestones and ticking off all the check boxes for that genre. It is well written (in terms of mechanics) and many romance fans will enjoy it. The writer made Cormac both interesting and decent - a welcome deviation from most paranormal romances, where the love interest is generally a jerk. The novel pivots from paranormal romance to urban fantasy in the last 30% and sets up the foundation of a potentially interesting UF series. I enjoyed that, but it didn’t completely save Smoke and Mirrors for me.
That mix of genres is not my main problem with Smoke and Mirrors. Inconsistent character development, flawed premises, and unclear world building are. Many things are unexplained.
What caused me to lose sympathy for Kimberly was an odd dynamic between her and Cormac, highlighted in at least six different passages from Cormac’s POV that made no sense to me. In short, Cormac kept his true nature from Kimberly for half the story, she threw a hissy fit when he revealed it, and he constantly apologized and berated himself for the rest of the book. But he had every reason to be reticent and, by the time he trusted her with the truth, they had barely known each other a week. At no point does she admit that she’d overreacted. He constantly says things like ‘I can never be sorry enough for how I treated you’ even though he was never anything but kind and helpful, even mounting a heroic rescue when she’d stupidly gotten herself in a very dangerous situation. Why would Kimberly expect trust right away, given that human mages & sorcerers enslave non-human supernaturals whenever they can? That tension between human magic-users and Others is a central theme.
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