RELEASE DAY- REVIEW-Smoke and Mirrors: Carnival of Mysteries Anthology – Elizabeth Silver

Smoke and Mirrors Book Cover Smoke and Mirrors
Carnival of Mysteries Anthology
Elizabeth Silver
Science Fiction, LGBTQ Fiction, Magic, Mystery, Anthology
Sept 20, 2023

Two things I know for sure: Magic isn't real and never date your coworkers.

Xander knows for a fact magic belongs solely in the realm of fiction. But fate has other plans when he finds himself reluctantly going on a date to a mysterious traveling carnival. Little does he know that this seemingly harmless outing will thrust him into an entirely different dimension, where magic is very much a reality—though its practitioners label it as science.

As Xander navigates this extraordinary new world, he finds himself accompanied by distractingly attractive government agent Justus Farhill, whose good looks and honest heart make it challenging to keep those pesky emotions in check. Their undeniable chemistry grows the more they work together, and even though he knows he should be fighting to find his way home, Xander instead finds himself with one heck of a reason to stay.

But amidst the blossoming romance, the veil of tranquility over this strange realm has begun to fracture. A cataclysmic battle decades in the making looms on the horizon, where the balance of power between science and magic threatens the very fabric of existence if the wrong side gains control.

As alliances shift and loyalties are tested, Xander finds himself questioning what’s real… and what’s really worth fighting for. With the fate of multiple dimensions at stake, both Xander and Justus must confront doubts and insecurities about themselves and where they belong.

Even if that means sacrificing everything in the end.


From Members of the PRG Review Team

Reviewed by Linda Tonis

Xander Renner has decided to accept Dorian’s invitation for a sexy, fun time at Errante Ame’s Carnival of Mystery. The sexy part was what Xander was hoping for which was why he agreed to the date but sexy, fun would not occur. Dorian made Xander pay for himself which did not sit well with him but sexy, fun was what he kept waiting for. Dorian insisted on going into the fun house which was filled with mirrors at this point all Xander wanted was to find the exit. Xander suffers from dyslexia and had to have tattoos of an R and L on his hand so when Dorian yelled go right, he got confused and went left.

Justus Farhill is a government agent sent to retrieve the Shadowthorne sword, a sword that is believed to be used in the Lumia Disaster, a disaster that left an entire town exploding and is now a hole in the ground. Exiting the vault there was an explosion leaving a huge hole in the wall with a man in it. The man was Xander and when he woke up in military hospital cuffed to the bed it was Justus starring down at him. Xander discovers he no longer has dyslexia and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Xander has landed in another dimension where everyone has a form of magic and is catalogued by their ability to manipulate the Arcanium, it is both science and magic. Justus is a Cat-2 and after testing Xander he is a Cat-5. Cat-5 is very rare, but all the information Xander receives just makes his head spin.

Then another explosion leaves the secure facility a danger to Xander. The powers that be need Xander to help put a stop to The Seekers the ones responsible for the Lumia disaster. Xander is sent to a safe house with Justus to protect him.

While living together Xander and Justus’ relationship moves to a more personal one and Justus is protecting Xander, not for the government but for himself. Xander is studying everything about the Lumia disaster and before long another safe place is attacked. This time Xander comes face to face with Dorian who apparently had a reason to go to the fun house, but Xander went the wrong way, and they were separated till now.

Dorian is part of the Seekers who are determined to get their hands on Xander, a Cat-5. Nowhere is safe and the people that are supposed to be trusted turn out to be the enemy. Now not only is it difficult to find a safe place, but it is also difficult to know who to trust. They are eventually led to a military facility and Xander finally learns what he must do to protect the world but once again they are betrayed, and the facility attacked.

Staying alive and saving the world is a heavy task especially when Xander has been unable to learn how to use his powers, but this is a time when he must pull it together and do what needs to be done.

This was another exciting book where the Carnival of Mysteries showed up when it was needed. Every book in this series had a visit to the Carnival and every visit came at a time when it was needed.. Xander visited the Carnival of Mysteries on a date from Hell, but it changed his life, introduced him to a past he never knew about and to a possible HEA.


Review By Ulysses Dietz

This is very good, largely due to Elizabeth Silver’s elegant, literate writing and wry sense of humor. The main purpose of the Carnival in this installment of the collaborative series, is to trigger the main action of the story. Once before, the Fun House has been put to use as a portal, which is the Carnival’s main purpose here.

For his whole life, Xander Renner has struggled with the severe dyslexia that has hampered everything from his work to his social life. A date with a colleague at the Carnival of Mysteries ends up turning Xander’s life upside down.

Justus Farhill is a magus police officer in the country of Arcania, in a completely different universe from Xander’s. His world, largely similar to our own, has mastered the science of manipulating the Arcanum, the flowing energy force deep below the planet’s surface. In the olden days, before science explained it, the Arcanum was thought of as magic. (This rather put me in mind of Jordan L. Hawk’s city of Widdershins, built above an ancient vortex of magical power.)

When Xander explosively appears in Justus’s world, the two men are thrown together in a quest to understand exactly who Xander is and what his presence in Arcania might mean for the future of the world. It is a fast-paced adventure, with more than a few nods to the legacy of Harry Potter. The insistence that magic is just something science-based is almost comical, and feels like a rather clever in-joke for a genre of romances based in worlds where magic is acknowledged and used routinely. For all the differences between their two worlds, Justus and Xander discover that human weakness is the only inevitable fact, and that such weakness is at the root of all human problems.

I was totally caught up in this book and its players thanks to the author’s writing skill. The apparently universal mobility of the Carnival of Mysteries gets another nod in this most welcome addition to that collaborative series.



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