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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
Smoke and Mirrors by Eli Celata is the third book in the Warlock of Rochester series. After saving the children of Hamelin from the demon Shiloh, they were supposed be safe with the Grith. The Daughters have arrived with the claim they're going to help the children, but with a kill list in hand, Jon knows their purpose isn't to keep anyone safe. When a child is found dead, Jon knows it was murder, even if everyone else believes it was suicide. Jon works with Jordan to find answers but all he finds are more questions. Two of the children, Gerhard and Wilhelm, uncover a hidden danger in the Grith which leads to Gerhard's death and Wilhelm being accused by the Daughters. He runs to Jon for help, claiming the Daughters are trying to kill him and others. Jon believes him, even if no one else does, since proving the boy's innocence won't be easy especially with a missing horn that is meant to see the return of Cernunnos.
Jon has settled into his life and his role as a student training under Jordan. He has found a balance between his normal life with school and friends, and his magical life of training and demon hunting. His friendships are highlighted throughout which show how important they are to Jon's life and help keep him grounded. The focus remains on Jon's feelings of responsibility for the children and the weight of the murders, which drive him to find answers even at the cost of turning against those he trusts most. Eli Celata makes the danger even deadlier as the threat has found a way within the Grith and passed through powerful wards. It's also a scarier threat as the only clue given is a wolf in sheep's clothing which leads Jon and Jordan to investigate the Daughters' true intentions.
Another mystery woven throughout is his search for his father's whereabouts and how Jordan is connected which Celata keeps you guessing until the stunning reveal. Jon has a personal stake in this as Wilhelm is dependent on him to protect him and everyone seems to think he's guilty. They have a sweet dynamic as Wilhelm looks up to Jon and Jon fills the role of protector. Jon and Jordan's dynamic continues to take center stage as their bickering and banter has respect and loyalty now with Jordan softening just the slightest around Jon and Jon leaning on Jordan as a mentor. Another delightfully complex character is Jordan's roommate Lei who always makes a scene delightful with his often innocent seeming personality hiding a powerful and dangerous demon. Smoke and Mirrors is another delightful installment of the Warlock of Rochester series that can't be missed as Celata weaves complex character dynamics and emotional journeys into a story full of magic, danger, and humor.