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Literature / Smoke and Shadows

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The Smoke and Shadows trilogy is a followup to Tanya Huff's Blood Books. It takes place a few years after the end of the Blood series, in Vancouver, and features Tony Foster as the lead character. His ex Henry also appears in the series.

Tony is a 20-something gay production assistant on the Vampire Detective Series show Darkest Night, who discovers that their "special effects wizard" Arra Pelindrake is an actual wizard. And Tony is one as well. After they fight off the invasion of a Shadowlord from Arra's own world, Tony is left alone to deal with any and all supernatural things that happen to the Darkest Night cast and crew.

The books are:

  • Smoke and Shadows
  • Smoke and Mirrors
  • Smoke and Ashes

There is also a published short story, "See Me", in the anthology Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives.

Provides examples of:

  • A House Divided: Smoke and Mirrors.
  • All Part of the Show: Used at one point to keep the police from getting involved in the events of the book. "The only supernatural events happening here are the ones on my set."
  • Alternate Universe: Arra's homeworld, which is inhabited by humans who have developed magic to a greater extent than technology. The wizards there seem to have confirmed the "Many-Worlds Interpretation" of quantum physics, but had only begun to develop the scientific/magical principles needed to travel between worlds. Arra was the first to actually succeed at doing so.
  • Another Dimension: Usually where demons come from. Some are considered to be "Hells", while others are just occupied by unpleasant, but not necessarily magical, creatures.
  • Badass Normal: Chester Bane. In the words of Henry, himself a badass vampire prince, "CB is a law unto himself."
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Stephen and Cassie; completely consensual, though it's unclear whether it was spurred by Caulfield House's "Driven to Madness" technique. Or if they're even capable of anything sexual in their ghostly state. They definitely still adore each other, though.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Also Stephen and Cassie, in both life and death. It's implied this is one of the reasons they're caught up Caulfield House's endless replays, but not a part of its consciousness or actively working on its behalf; they still have each other to depend on.
  • Casting a Shadow: The Shadowlord's preferred magic.
  • Chekhov's Coffee Shop, even plays on the page quote.
  • Closet Key: Tony proves to be this for Lee.
  • Demonic Possession: Sentient shadows, ghosts...ironically, actual "demons" are the only ones not really joining in on the fun.
  • Deus Sex Machina: Leah, Henry, and Tony have to have a threesome in order to save the world (or for Tony to communicate with a demonlord who can't perceive anyone who isn't attracted to his handmaiden.)
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Leah uses this often. In her case it often goes all the way to "distracted by the sex." She mentions at one point that until the nineteenth century or so, she spent most of her life 'in powerful men's beds' to keep herself fed and sheltered.
  • Distressed Dude: Even if he's not a girl, and not incompetent, Lee is the Mary Jane to Tony's Peter Parker. (He certainly does seem to get targeted because of Tony.) And boy, does Lee ever get sick of it.
  • Driven to Suicide: In Smoke and Mirrors, the malignant intelligence in Caufield House drives people to commit murder, followed by suicide. It then forces their ghosts to perpetually reenact their deaths.
  • Dying Message: although it's technically a Go into the Light message: one of the few funny and heartwarming moments from "Smoke and Mirrors". Before Stephen follows Cassie and all the other Caulfield House ghosts into the afterlife, he manages to have a quick conversation with Tony, telling Tony that he and Cassie did one last ghostly act for him. "Cassie drew one half and I drew the other". It's not until he gets home and finally gets to change clothes that Tony finds it - Stephen and Cassie drew a love heart on his ass!
  • Even the Guys Want Him: The Running Gag is that "evil is always after [Tony's] ass!" Defied in the third book, where Leah's exclusively heterosexual Demonlord is aware that Tony desires him, and is mildly amused at most.
  • Everyone Can See It: Tony and Lee's mutual crushes on each other. Unresolved Sexual Tension abounds there.
  • Extra-Strength Masquerade: Other than constable Jack and tabloid reporter Kevin Groves, the city of Vancouver at large is oblivious to all the supernatural weirdness that goes on, especially around CB Productions. CB has no qualms about bringing in insurance claims adjusters after demonic creatures damage his set. At one point a demon even crashes a coffee house. But it was a Goth club so it may not count, even though it turns out that Goths are less excited to meet real demons than one might expect.
  • First-Person Smartass: Hilariously so.
  • Foreshadowing: From Smoke and Mirrors
    • during the first day of shooting in Caulfield House, Tony notices that the set is a much more comfortable temperature than usual. He then finds out it's because ghost siblings Stephen and Cassie are posing as extras and drawing on the heat generated by all the lights and equipment in order to appear as normal to everyone. Before he finds out what Caulfield House really is, Tony even asks them if they'd consider hanging around for the whole shoot, because everyone's a lot easier to get along with in the cooler temperatures.
    • When several secondary characters get a POV scene, if you read carefully you can tell Caulfield House is already working on them, as previously-mentioned desires become fixations or obsessions i.e. one crew member with a mild crush on Lee quickly starts plotting to get rid of Tony as she devolves into a dangerous stalker.
    • When Stephen and Cassie tell Tony about their deaths, they don't mention what they were doing when their father came after them with an axe. But Tony figures it out pretty quickly, since Stephen is still dressed in what he was wearing when he died - a shirt long enough to cover him to mid-thigh, but nothing else below the waist.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Henry
  • Functional Magic: Wizards use an Inherent Gift and Rule Magic to manipulate energies. There's also some Theurgy (the Light of Yeramathia)
  • Genre Savvy: Most of the characters work in TV production and Henry writes romance novels. They are very much aware of the tropes in their lives. CB is even willing to lampshade how cliche and derivative the plot of the second book is.
    • In the short story "See Me", when Jack asks Tony where the heck he goes to get information about supernatural beings, Tony responds that he goes to talk to the show's writers.
  • Ghostly Chill: The ghosts of Caulfield House.
  • Glamour Failure: Stephen and Cassie are able to become visible and appear normal by drawing on all the heat energy from the filming set, but once Tony sees them in a mirror the illusion no longer works and he can see their real forms.
  • Haunted House: Caulfield House, where Darkest Night is filming an episode. It is of the Big Fancy House with the Creepy Caretaker variety.
  • Healing Magic Is the Hardest: Actually, the healing itself is not so difficult. But in being healed you must experience all the pain that you normally would over the course of the time it would take for your injuries to heal naturally - all at once!
  • Hemo Erotic: Tony definitely still feels arousal at the thought of Henry feeding from him, which contributes to the lingering tension in their relationship now that they are no longer together. It is implied that Henry and CB have some kind of relationship of this sort going on as well.
  • Heroic Bastard: Henry, as he's the real-life bastard son of Henry VIII
  • I Always Wanted to Say That: In the third book, someone makes a comment about "six kinds of hell breaking loose and coming your way." When called on it, he cheerfully admits he's just been waiting for his chance.
  • I See Dead People: In Smoke and Mirrors Tony starts seeing them early on. Graham is also a medium.
  • Immortality Immorality: Tony is a bit unsettled by Leah's rather indifferent attitude about the lives of mortal humans, especially since she does not perceive their lives as being as valuable as her own despite how long she has lived.
  • Invisible to Normals: The ghosts of Caulfield House are not visible except to people like Tony (a wizard) or Graham (a medium). Other people can only vaguely sense them, to Amy's great disappointment.
  • James Bondage
  • Lampshade Hanging: tons and tons of it, given the subject matter; Tony and his pals, after all, work on a Vampire Detective Series.
  • Large Ham: Mason Reed, who plays Raymond Dark on Darkest Night
  • Light 'em Up: The Light of Yeramathia.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: Leah couldn't be further away from Who Wants to Live Forever? if she tried. She greatly enjoys her career as a stuntwoman precisely because she knows that none of the stunts she performs could possibly injure, much less kill, her. Tony lampshades this by briefly considering "Immortal Stuntwoman" as a TV series pitch.
  • Living Lie Detector: Kevin Groves. Naturally, he's a tabloid reporter. Unfortunately for him this is a case of Useless Superpowers, since many of the truths he uncovers are so fantastical that the only place they can get printed is a tabloid.
  • Magic Is a Monster Magnet: Henry's (a vampire) presence tends to draw other supernatural beings into his vicinity. Tony, as one of the few true wizards (as opposed to specialty occultists) on Earth only increases the weirdness levels in the Vancouver area.
  • Magic Versus Science: Magic involves the manipulation of energy. Potentially all forms of it. Certain magic thus interferes with the use of technological devices. For example, cell phones do not work on the set of CB Productions because of the dimensional gate located there. Caulfield House drains energy from electrical devices and interferes with radio communications. However, whether magic and science are antithetical is somewhat a matter of point of view for people from Tony's world. On Arra's world magic basically fills the role normally occupied by science, and she has little difficulty combining the two disciplines. She even uses computers for divination (via games of Spider Solitaire) and to mathematically model the required parameters to create dimensional gateways.
  • Magical Computer: Arra's laptop
  • Mind-Control Device: The Shadowlord, upon discovering television and the way it creates "shadows made of light" sees it as a potentially very easy way to quickly take over the world.
  • Moral Myopia: Creighton Caufield expresses the disgust over Tony's homosexuality that one might expect from a moralistic person from his era. The fact that he's the ghost of a necromancer who feeds off the energy generated by tormented captive souls as part of a bid to become a Lovecraftian Eldritch Abomination somewhat undermines his claim to rectitude however.
  • Muggle with a Degree in Magic: Subverted in Smoke and Mirrors. To Tony's chagrin, everyone looks to Amy for guidance on dealing with the supernatural situation they find themselves in simply because she is a Perky Goth who freely admits to owning all seasons of Charmed (1998) on DVD. Granted, he has spent months in possession of veritable encyclopedia of magic and done virtually nothing with it.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Arra actually had no intention of ever returning to her own world or facing the Shadowlord again. But his relentless searching for her, sending shadow minions through the gate to seek her out and even coming to Earth himself, bolsters Tony's arguments that she needs to stop hiding and face him once and for all.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Leah, thanks to an "oops, I wrote that wrong" moment her demon lord had, can't be injured or age. When a demon draws a wee bit of blood from her, she's terrified.
  • No Tech but High Tech: Caulfield House drains energy from electrical devices and jams radio waves. But things like a kerosene fueled lantern work just fine.
  • Occult Detective: Tony increasingly ends up in this role as his prowess as a wizard grows.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Many are simply the wildlife of their native dimensions, and are not especially intelligent nor possess magical powers. The more intelligent ones refer to their kind as "arjh", with the most powerful being mostly humanoid, immortal, magic-using beings. Leah's demonlord once took on a God Guise in the ancient Near East, which is where she became one of his handmaidens.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Most of the ones in Caulfield House are being held there against their wills and forced to reenact their deaths.
  • Perky Goth: Amy
  • The Pornomancer: Leah
  • The Power of Friendship: What gives Tony the support he needs.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Creighton Caulfield used his mentally-retarded son Richard as a medium to channel the negative psychic energy he was gathering inside Caulfield House. When Richard unexpectedly died, his father had to adjust his plans. However, Richard continued to linger in the house as a ghost, and his presence served to anchor the other ghosts inside until Tony convinced him to Go into the Light, taking the other ghosts with him.
  • Protectorate CB Productions
  • Red Shirt and Mauve Shirt: Let's just say that being an extra on Darkest Night is more hazardous than it ought to be. The cast and crew aren't entirely safe either, but as a rule the closer they are to Tony the less likely they are to die.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Tony and Lee do eventually end up together.
  • Second Place Is for Winners: At one point, Tony muses about being a variant of this, professionally speaking. Apparently, he was looked down on by his peers at film school for his post-graduation job, working for a cult tv, B grade Vampire Detective series with a small budget, while they're working on high-rating, high-budget shows - Smallville is mentioned specifically. Tony, however, is working wherever he's needed and thus gaining experience in lighting, set dressing, continuity, and special effects (and is a permanent member of this department after Arra goes back home) and through working as an assistant is shadowing directors, editors and camera operators, while the biggest responsibility any of his snotty classmates have been given is being in charge of the honey wagon i.e. the location portapotties!
    • Not to mention, CB has been around for decades, knows just about everybody in the Canadian film/tv industry, and is shown to take care of his people. When Darkest Night eventually ends, (because all shows do) CB will either take most of the crew onto his next show, or be able to get them a job offer by making a couple of phone calls.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Arra insists that before she fled her world every divination that she cast said that the Shadowlord could not be stopped even if her colleagues put their plan to invoke the Light of Yeramathia into motion. Tony notes that, by her own account, Arra (one of the most powerful wizards) had pretty much already decided to flee to another world rather than trying the spell. Thus, she fulfilled her own prophecies. When convinced to try it on Earth, with a little help from Tony, she succeeds at destroying the Shadowlord.
  • Sidekick: Lee plays the show's sidekick. Henry is now Tony's sidekick. Also, pretty much everyone wants to be Tony's.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Mason may be the star of Darkest Night, but that doesn't make him anywhere near as big of a celebrity as he tries to pretend that he is.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: The Shadowlord plays this trope completely straight.
  • Soul Power: Creighton Caulfield harnesses this.
  • Spirit Advisor: Stephen and Cassie to Tony
  • Spoiled Brat: Both of CB's daughters, Ashley and Brianna. Tony actually stops Caulfield House from taking Brianna by telling the House exactly what she's like, and asking if it really wants to spend eternity putting up with her. The House gives her back. Brianna is quite indignant about this.
  • Summon to Hand: The "Come To Me" spell, which Tony becomes very adept with. It's how he defeats Leah's old lover/demonlord. He uses it on the demonlord, having first positioned himself in such a way the demonlord will have to "Come to Me" on a direct line through Leah - and the dimensional gate embedded in her body.
  • Tabloid Melodrama: Something Lee has to worry about.
  • Training the Gift of Magic: Although Tony first exhibited the ability to use magic in Smoke and Shadows, he had only been devoting occasional effort to study the magical lessons on the laptop Arra left for him. This bites him in the ass in Smoke and Mirrors, as he seriously had need of more magic than he knew. By Smoke and Ashes he has been putting more effort into studying and is on his way to becoming quite powerful by the standards of supernatural beings in his world.
  • True Companions: CB Productions.
  • Undead Child: Stephen, Cassie, and Karl
  • The Unmasqued World: by the middle of book 2, a large number of people at CB Productions are well aware of the supernatural goings-on and what Tony is. And they want in on the action. By book 3 they are a fighting team.
  • Vampire Detective Series: Darkest Night, the Show Within the Show. "Hey! We've got the highest numbers of any vampire detective show in syndication!" "That and a buck seventeen will buy you a bad cup of coffee."
  • Weirdness Censor: Goes hand-in-hand with the Extra-Strength Masquerade. Most people instinctively rationalize away any metaphysical phenomena that they witness. Several supernatural individuals actually express shock that people like Tony and CB recognize the paranormal on sight and acknowledge that it is real without first going through denial.
  • Weirdness Magnet: CB Productions, but there's a good reason for it. Both Henry and Tony also have a history of this individually.
  • What Are Records?: While trapped in Caulfield House, an irritable Mason makes a reference to putting another record on. Which leads to this exchange:
    Brianna: What's a record?
    Zev: It's like a great big CD.
    Brianna: No one cool uses CDs anymore.
    Ashley: They're like from another time.
  • Wizarding School: Utterly subverted, since Tony's new mentor Arra takes off for her own dimension and he has to learn via trial, error, and the Magical Computer she left him.
  • Wizards Live Longer: Arra is 137, and while not young, she is not elderly either.
  • World of Snark: Just about everybody, which means that Snark-to-Snark Combat is the normal mode of conversation.
  • Your Vampires Suck: Tony complains to Henry early in Smoke and Shadows that the showrunners of Darkest Night don't know anything about vampires. Henry's response? "Good."