(Smoke and Mirrors, #1)
Publication date: July 19th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
In the gritty city of Dusk, seventeen-year-old Irina makes her living as the street magician Bantheir’s assistant. The job isn’t glamorous, but she loves the crowds, the shows, and most of all, the illusion of magic. But Irina’s world is shattered the night she is arrested and charged as Bantheir’s accomplice to murder—murder by magic.
Real magic, the kind that’s been forbidden since the old wars.
Irina finds the idea of flashy showman Bantheir using actual magic to kill someone laughable, but she’s the only one who sees how ridiculous the claim is. But how can she convince everyone Bantheir is innocent when they’ve already made up their minds? Desperate, Irina must decide who she can trust to help her win her freedom. Is the surly, handsome Captain Leonid telling the truth when he says he believes Irina is innocent, or is he just using her to get to Bantheir? What about Aden, the sweet soldier and longtime fan of Irina’s who claims he’s on her side?
Irina said she wanted to know the truth, but when she stumbles across a dark secret that changes everything, will she be strong enough to survive.
“Come on, come on, Irina,” Bantheir scolded with a grand sweep of his hands. Everything Bantheir did was grand. He always believed he was onstage, performing for his adoring fans. Never mind that we never performed on a stage, nor did we have fans. Patrons, yes. Generous patrons? Sometimes.
“Coming, Bantheir,” I said, wobbling under the weight of a heavy pack crammed with props. It was so large it completely blocked my vision, and I didn’t notice Bantheir had halted in his tracks until I nearly plowed him over.
“Watch it!” he hissed, blue eyes flashing.
“Why did you stop?” Stumbling like a drunk, I attempted to peek around the pack to see what had caught his attention. Bantheir made a noise of impatience and grabbed the pack out of my arms, setting it on the ground with more force than was necessary. I was about to ask him what was the matter when I noticed the huge crowd that had already gathered.
A crowd that wasn’t meant for us.
Their bodies pressed together tightly as they strained to catch a glimpse of two figures, one male, the other female, standing on a large wooden stage erected in the middle of the courtyard. The male figure raised his fist over his head before hurling something to the ground. A large explosion rocked the courtyard, and a dark-green cloud of smoke spiraled up from the ground, blocking the figures from view. When the cloud dissipated, only the female remained, still in the same spot she’d been standing in before the explosion. Putting one hand on her hip, she gestured toward the empty spot with her other hand, and the crowd went wild, screaming their approval.
“Simple fireworks,” Bantheir said loudly, stroking his goatee with an air of disdain. “And obviously there’s a trapdoor below the stage. So simple, even a child could figure it out.”
Considering the adults in the crowd were cheering even louder than the children, it wasn’t as simple as Bantheir proclaimed. Before I could tell him to lower his voice, a person emerged from the crowd to clamp a hand down on Bantheir’s shoulder.
“Look who came to see my show! It’s Bantheir!”
Bantheir went bright red, and I cursed under my breath, praying that he wouldn’t make a scene. Flashing a grim smile, Bantheir ducked out from under the hand on his shoulder and practically purred, “Parnaby.”
Parnaby the street magician smiled pleasantly, his brown eyes sparkling kindly. “And look, Irina is here as well! Elyse, Irina is here! How do you like the show so far, my friend?” Parnaby continued, oblivious to our discomfort. Parnaby was sweet, but a bit… clueless. He had no idea that Bantheir would rather die than refer to himself as Parnaby’s friend. In Bantheir’s eyes, they were bitter, bitter rivals.
And it always bothered Bantheir that Parnaby, with his wild brown hair and raggedy robes, was infinitely more popular than the well-dressed, self-proclaimed gentleman who practiced his stage moves in front of a large mirror in his bedroom.
With a loud snort, Bantheir bent over and reached into the pack to remove his bright red cape with a practiced flourish. I stifled a groan as he tied the garish thing around his neck. He wouldn’t, I thought desperately. Not here! Tossing the scarlet fabric over his shoulder so it flew in the air like a shiny red wing, he put his hands on his hips and boomed to the crowd in his stage voice, “When you’re ready to see some real magic, come to the adjacent courtyard to see the one and only Bantheir!”
Completely ignoring Parnaby, who was still smiling kindly, Bantheir marched away, hands on his hips, leaving me to haul the heavy pack up into my arms and scramble after him.
Melissa Giorgio is a native New Yorker who graduated from Queens College with a degree in English. She’s always dreamed of being a writer and has been creating stories (mostly in her head) since she was a little girl. Also an avid reader, Melissa loves to devour thick YA novels. When not reading or writing, she enjoys watching animated films, listening to music by her favorite Japanese boy band, or exploring Manhattan. She is also the author of the Silver Moon Saga.