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Saturday, August 13, 2011


Author:  Robyn Bachar
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor2
Publisher and Titles: Samhain
          Blood, Smoke, and Mirrors (2011) 

    In this world, which is set in an alternate Chicago, a thriving supernatural population of magicians (i.e., practitioners of various types of magic) exists unknown to mortals. The magicians are divided into factions depending on their magical characteristics and talents (e.g., faeries, necromancers, shape shifters, vampires, sorcerers, witches). The faeries live in their own separate Realm of Faerie, while the rest of the supernaturals live in the Realm of Earth alongside the mortals. One odd but interesting note: All of the faeries have Shakespearean names (e.g., Portia, Tybalt, Cecelia).  Each magical group is governed by its own Council of Three.

     The series heroine is Catharine (Cat) Baker, a Chicago witch who was unfairly banished four years ago by the Witches' Council when she used magic to defend herself against an unprovoked street attack. Cat has some faery ancestors on her mother's side, and her father is a necromancer. The Guardian who turned Cat in and arrested her was her longtime boyfriend, Alexander (Lex) Duquesne, and as you can probably guess, their romance ended at that exact point in time. 

            NOVEL 1:  Blood, Smoke, and Mirrors             
     As the story opens, Cat's beloved mentor, Maureen, has been murdered by vampires, and Lex asks Cat to apply to the Fairy Council to replace Maureen as the Titania. The Titania (or Oberon, if a male is appointed) serves as the liaison between the Realm of Faerie and the Realm of Earth. At first, Cat refuses—mostly because she's still furious with Lex—but then her faerie cousins insist that she is the best person for the job so she decides to give it a try. When Cat arrives at the first interview, she learns that the only other applicant is her estranged father, Dorian, an egotistical and devious n'er-do-well who deserted Cat and her mother for a vampire woman, and who is suspected of being an accomplice in her mother's murder by vampires. 

     The Faerie Council announces that Cat and Dorian must complete three tasks before the council makes a final decision. Unfortunately, after the first task is completed, the vampires and necromancers put a contract out on Cat, and the action is on. Eventually, a powerful vampire enters the story, trying to put the moves on Cat in order to manipulate her into helping with his long-term, possibly evil, plans for the supernatural world. Will Cat earn the position as Titania? Can she learn to trust Lex? Will she leave Lex for the vampire? All of these questions are answered, but a few more are left unresolved—to be dealt with in book 2 (no title or publication date at this point in time). The plot thread about the manipulative vampire felt as if it had been added on just as a hook for the next book.

     Cat is not the usual well-toned, beautiful heroine. Here is her description of herself from the first page of Blood, Smoke and Mirrors:
      "I’m on the overweight side, I wear glasses, and my mouse-brown hair is most often pulled back into a messy braid or ponytail. My wardrobe consists of T-shirts, blue jeans, and unintimidating white running shoes. I might as well have 'Mug me' stamped in the middle of my forehead."

     Cat is also not the usual kick-ass urban fantasy heroine. Unfortunately, she spends a lot of time either fainting or hiding out under a magical shield. She does have the usual angst-filled interior monologues about her relationship with Lex. She's finding it difficult to trust him again after he let her down so badly with the Witches' Council. Lex comes from generations of guardians, and he prides himself on following the letter of the law—no gray areas for him. Cat, on the other hand, breaks rules all the time. She is just not sure that they can make it as a couple, but she does admit to herself that she still loves him. I have to say that given Lex's huge betrayal of Cat, it was impossible for me to understand how she could forgive him so easily and fall right back into their romance.

     Although the story moves along at a good pace and the characters are relatively well developed, a number of troubling flaws in logic get in the way of full enjoyment. For example, the faeries have a history of hating all vampires and necromancers. Vampires are not even allowed entrance to the Faerie Realm for any reason. Yet they allow Dorian, who is a necromancer and a known vampire sympathizer, to be a candidate for the powerful position of Titania—hard to believe. Even after Dorian's buddies put a price on Cat's head, and even though Dorian is part of an attack on Cat inside the Faerie Realm that kills her faerie cousin, the Faerie Council still keeps Dorian on as a candidate—totally impossible to believe.

     Click HERE to read the first chapter of the book free of charge. (Click on  the "Excerpt" tab just below the pricing information for the book.)

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