Review: Smoke and Mirrors by Jess Haines

Posted June 13th, 2016 in book review / 26 comments

Review: Smoke and Mirrors by Jess HainesSmoke and Mirrors by Jess Haines
Series: Blackhollow Academy #1
Publisher: Self-Published on May 1, 2016
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 290
Format: eBook
Source: Publisher
Purchase: Amazon
Add to: Goodreads
Rating: two-stars
Heat: one-flame

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....

At A Glance

Meh. Nothing special.

The Good

Smoke and Mirrors had so much potential. I mean, come on, dragons! I love me a yummy dragon-shifter. And we do get some dragon fun in this story.

The first 30% was exciting and seemed to be leading to a great story. Kimberly needs a familiar to graduate from an academy full of mages that want to kill her. She needs a familiar that will make an impact, like a dragon! So Kimberly goes on a dangerous adventure to find a dragon.

I liked Kimberly in the beginning. She and her mother have it rough. They are poor as church mice and Kimberly is despised by magi because she’s different. She has to work her butt off every day of her life. She was strong and determined and I respected her. Then Cormac got all obsessed with her and things went down hill.

The Bad

First is this YA, NA, or Adult? I’m so confused. Kimberly acts like a 12 year old. Cormac acts like an old man. I guess it was a mixture of young adult and new adult. I don’t know, I gave up on trying to figure out this book.

The plot was a little all over the place. Slow and draggy in some parts, childish in others. The big battle was limp in my eyes, over quick and with little excitement. Misunderstandings were resolved through flirting and pouting. The ending was wrapped up too fast and way too easily. I was expecting a lot more excitement with how scared Kimberly was all the time.

Cormac and Kimberly’s relationship happens within days as Cormac goes all “Mine” and Kimberly “Can’t help herself.” *rolls eyes* So over it.

The Snuggly

I’m pretty sure there’s no sex (wow, my mind is gone today) but we get some petting and kissing.

Final Thoughts

I’m so indifferent with this story I can barely write this review. The beginning was awesome and a lot of aspects were interesting but the characters were not entertaining and there was not enough excitement. Not recommended.


“Mage! Get out of my store!”

Every eye in the place turned on Kimberly. Before she could move a muscle, the tiny woman flung her hand in her direction. Kimberly flinched back, but between one blink and the next, Cormac had stepped in front of her and snatched the projectile out of the air. He passed the shiny silver dagger to her, and she fumbled and dropped it in her nervousness.

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26 Responses to “Review: Smoke and Mirrors by Jess Haines”

  1. JenM

    I love dragons so I had my eye on this book also. Have you tried Rachel Aaron’s dragon series, starting with Nice Dragons Finish Last? It’s really good, definitely UF, not PNR, with a dragon shifter main character who is a really nice beta hero stuck in the middle of a totally cutthroat dragon family. It’s fun and action packed.

    • Jennifer (Bad Bird Reads)

      OMG, How have I not herd of this series!!??? So grabbing it now. Thanks.

  2. Nitzan Schwarz

    I can’t actually recall any good dragon-shifter novels I’ve read, so I’ll use this opportunity to ask what are some of your favorites, Jen?
    As for this one, really too bad it’s a bust–especially if it had potential! I hate it when the first 30% are deceiving, because you’re already all prepared to like the novel and then it betrays you with FREAKING insta love *gags*
    Thanks for the fantastic review!

    • Jennifer (Bad Bird Reads)

      I have to be honest, I never read an amazing dragon book. Just very good ones. Going Down in Flames was pretty good.

  3. Braine

    Bahahaha! I can’t help but laugh on “The Bad”

    The author did say that the age is NA but the tone is YA. I agree with you on the disconnect with the ages, she doesn’t act/think like a 21yo who’s been struggling so much. She’s too neat around the edges

    • Jennifer (Bad Bird Reads)

      Well, I guess she’s right on that. I don’t like super immature characters like that.

  4. Let's Get Beyond Tolerance

    It’s not easy to write reviews for books you feel ‘meh’ about, but I appreciate the effort! Dragons are awesome but it does sound like the book is a little too all over the place.

  5. Melissa (My words and pages)

    Bummer. Sorry to hear the book didn’t really work for ya.

  6. Jaclyn Canada

    That’s a let down. Dragons should equal a fun read. It’s a shame that so much was lacking. Also, if you can’t remember whether there was sex in the book, it means if there was that’s so much worse because it wasn’t memorable. Great review!

    • Jennifer (Bad Bird Reads)

      I know!!! I just read it too and I couldn’t remember at all.

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