Book Review: Smoke and Mirrors

review-cover-smoke and mirrorsTitle: Smoke and Mirrors [Blackhollow Academy 1]

Author: Jess Haines

Genre: Urban Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, New Adult

Rating: 5 (4.5) Stars



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…


This book couldn’t’ have come through my inbox at a better time. I was looking for a good, solid romance that I could effortlessly sink into for an afternoon… and staring at me was a long list of books I’d been asked to read that I wasn’t sure fit into that category. I couldn’t have been happier that this was the book that I picked up.

Technically speaking, the book was flawless. I didn’t catch any obvious typos or grammatical errors. The narrative and dialogue flowed smoothly, and at a good pace that was neither too fast nor too slow. I never came across a moment where I had to re-read or roll my eyes at what the characters were saying or doing.

Though there weren’t a lot of characters to the cast, the ones I got to know were well fleshed out and for the most part, likable. Kimberly was a great main character, and although I wish the romance between Kimberly and Cormac had been a bit more solid, it was easy to see why the surly dragon was so drawn to her. I think, for me, there just wasn’t enough of a build up to the romance between the two main characters. Obviously, there was an attraction between the two – but there was also a lot of distrust from both ends, and I just didn’t see them falling in love as quickly as they did. Despite that, their romance was entertaining, so I won’t fault it too much.

The world building by far was one of my favorite aspects of this book. It was an interesting mix of Harry Pottery meets Lost Girl, meets Dresden – and it worked. I liked that there were familiar aspects of urban fantasy (such as a magic academy, magical creatures living in a real life setting, and prejudices against certain types of magical creatures) that I’d seen in other series, but they were put together in a way that was new, and entertaining.

Overall, although the romance was an aspect of this book, I don’t think it was the strongest point. But it didn’t need to be. The story stood up in a lot of other ways, and all together, it made for a solid read. Would I read it again? Yes. Will I continue on with the series? Definitely. If you like Urban Fantasy with a little romance and a hard working heroine that delves into some pretty serious topics without getting too dark or gritty, this is something I’d recommend to you.