November 13, 2020

Shady Lady Book Review
“Blood, Smoke, and Mirrors”

Ann Hosler
Copy Editor

   “Blood, Smoke and Mirrors” is the first book in the “Bad Witch” series by Robyn Bachar. In this story we meet Catherine Baker, who is a witch, and Alexander “Lex” Duquesne, who is a guardian. Catherine and Lex have a romantic past, but their relationship ended several years prior when Lex did his guardian duty and turned in Catherine for causing harm (which isn’t allowed for a witch) when someone attacked her. Self-defense or not, she was exiled; rightfully so, she felt betrayed.
   Lex comes to Catherine when their region’s Titania—an ambassador of sorts between the human and faerie realms—is murdered. Not only does Lex believe that she should try to become the next Titania, but he also has a warning: her death might be next. Like it or not, he’s there to protect her.
   Of course, chaos ensues.
  This book has a lot of magical action going on. At times, and especially after Catherine becomes a guest to a vampire, I teetered on the brink of thinking that there was more happening than my brain can believe is possible. Catherine goes through the good and the bad—mostly the bad—on her path to reclaiming her role in magical society. While the many events acted as a fantastic introduction to the hierarchy of magicians and the world Bachar is building, it neared overwhelming.
   Despite (or because) of that, there is also never a dull moment. Catherine and Lex rebuild their shattered relationship and show the magical world what a power couple they are. This is also where I think the book didn’t do itself any favors by only being narrated in Catherine’s first person point of view. I wanted to see inside Lex’s head and understand more than what he chose to say to Catherine about why he turned her in and how he felt afterward.

   Because we’re missing Lex's point of view, he doesn’t seem to develop as much as a character as Catherine does until near the end of the book. (We’re also subjected to the “Big Misunderstanding” romance trope because we have no insight into his thoughts.)

   The secondary characters are quite interesting as well. They offer more insight into this world of magic and give opportunities for levity in an action-laden environment.

They’re dynamic and offer this world further potential to expand.

   One of the biggest complaints I see in other reviews is that Catherine is a weak character. I have to agree with that—she’s quite pessimistic about herself, her family, her past with Lex, and her limitations as a witch for much of the book. I’m willing to accept that if she’s bound by a “do no harm” tenant (which there should be a self-defense exception for, but I digress), that she’s unwilling or untrained to use her magic offensively. What makes Catherine appear weak is her mental state, an unfortunate character flaw that is drawn out longer than it should be. She does progress, but also regresses; it’s not until we’re nearly at the sudden finale that she hits her stride.
   While this series opener has some rough spots, it’s still a fun read. I would have liked to spend more time with these two in the final chapter instead of being rushed through the ending, especially since it was such an ordeal to get to that point. There are details that aren’t wrapped up (related to the overall series plot), but the main story of Catherine and Lex does reach a satisfying conclusion. The couple has a second book (“Bewitched, Blooded and Bewildered”; #3 in the series) that wraps up one Catherine-related event left unresolved in “Blood, Smoke and Mirrors.” I have yet to read it, but the reviews are complementary.

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