Starts off with a strong premise: outcast witch finds herself in the unlikely position of vying for job of Titiana, the intercessor between the land of fairy and Earth's magical critters AND her competition is none other than her father, the man who killed her mother. Unfortunately, the plot fizzles quicker than cheap fireworks.
Catherine "Cat" Baker is a witch. Not the wort on her nose, cackling crone sort of witch, but the pretty, young sort whose guiding principle is "Do no harm." That is, until she does a bit of harm to a mugger and gets kicked out of witch society for defending herself.
Confession, this is where the plot started to acquire a drunken wobble. I mean, the idea of a pacifist society isn't bad. But the natural impulse for most humans, even those of us without powers, when attacked, is often to defend oneself. I couldn't help wondering why Cat was the only witch out there who's been expelled for "Oops, butterfingers," accidentally misfiring her magic at an attacker. Seems like there should be a Team Outcast in witch world.
Any-way. Traumatized by the attack, Cat tells her then boyfriend, Lex what happened. Big mistake. Lex is a Guardian, i.e., the obligatory defender of ordinary mankind from all that is magical. And Lex immediately runs off and rats on Cat. Which...leads to her expulsion from witch society.
Honestly? Given the whole, be a dishrag and let muggers kick your ass thing, I think Cat is better off. Plus, beyond getting the cold shoulder from witch-dom, I don't see any negatives to being cast out. Maybe she can't shop at the super cheap, magical witch commissary anymore.
Obviously, this ends Cat and Lex's relationship.
Fast forward...when Lex shows up at Cat's workplace and tells her that the position of Titiana is now open and that Cat should vie for the job. Cat, rightly so, tells Lex to take a leap and is bewildered by the suggestion that she, persona non grata, should apply for the job.
Okay, except, a few hours later, she changes her mind, pretty much out of the blue and marches off to fight for the job. To her horror, it turns out the competition for the job is her dear old Dad, Dorian, vampire and slayer of her mother. Also, the rest of his bloodsucking buddies want her dead before she can take the three tests to prove her worthiness to be Titiana.
The above, admittedly, sounds like the makings of a great story. Except, that arc ends midway through the novel. Villain is vanquished, Cat is now Titiana-to-be.
The remainder of the story is taken up by Cat being abducted and courted by Zach Harrison, rich, suave vampire extraordinaire. Weirdly, I liked the second half more than the first, even though, nothing really happens.The reason? Zach is kind of cool. Lex is a dud.
The thing about Blood, Smoke and Mirrors is that it feels like it should be good. It's readable, the author has pleasant, engaging voice. But it also feels like it needed several more goes through a critique group.
There's weird characterization stuff. Like the fact that Cat has some serious baggage--Dad wants her dead--and yet she forgives Lex for his betrayal largely because he's hot and he's her soul mate. (Soul mate, btw, ugh.) Lex, as I said above, isn't all that interesting. He's apparently pretty and has a Louisiana accent. Not much to him, besides the stick up his ass.
Her friends tell her that Lex "had to" turn her in, but we never learn why. Frankly, Lex sounds like an ass to me. While your average good cop would turn in a loved one for a serious crime, I imagine most would turn a blind eye to jaywalking or some other minor infraction. "Defending yourself from a psycho" falls in the category of something that a loving boyfriend, even one who is a Guardian, should let slide. Re-winning Cat's heart should have required grovelling on his hands and knees over broken bottles for most of the book. Instead, he whines that he had to turn her in, and then she hops in his bed.
Because the Big Bad gets his comeuppance early on, there is little sense of urgency. The last half is largely a reason to let Cat hang out with a gorgeous, rich man. The only danger comes from his jealous ex. Otherwise, Zach is relatively polite (for a vampire), super sexy, and loads more charming than Lex. Obviously, if this is a set-up for a love triangle, I'm Team Zach.
This gets three stars because it was an easy read and I think the premise and some of the characters had potential. And because I got it free.