Review – Smiler’s Fair, Rebecca Levene

Do not read this book if you don’t like violence. If you like your fantasy very realistic and gritty, then Smiler’s Fair is most definitely for you. If you follow me on twitter (which you should do @judithcmoore) you’ll know that my bank holiday weekend was taken up with reading Rebecca Levene’s Hollow God’s series. So today you can read about the first book in the series and tomorrow the second. Gosh, it’s as if I planned it that way-go organised me!

Goodreads Summary:

Yron the moon god died, but now he’s reborn in the false king’s son. His human father wanted to kill him, but his mother sacrificed her life to save him. He’ll return one day to claim his birthright. He’ll change your life.

He’ll change everything.

Smiler’s Fair: the great moving carnival where any pleasure can be had, if you’re willing to pay the price. They say all paths cross at Smiler’s Fair. They say it’ll change your life. For five people, Smiler’s Fair will change everything.

In a land where unimaginable horror lurks in the shadows, where the very sun and moon are at war, five people – Nethmi, the orphaned daughter of a murdered nobleman, who in desperation commits an act that will haunt her forever. Dae Hyo, the skilled warrior, who discovers that a lifetime of bravery cannot make up for a single mistake. Eric, who follows his heart only to find that love exacts a terrible price. Marvan, the master swordsman, who takes more pleasure from killing than he should. And Krish, the humble goatherd, with a destiny he hardly understands and can never accept – will discover just how much Smiler’s Fair changes everything.

So I have a sneaking suspicion that this book was published on the back of the success of the Game of Thrones books. The market was desperate for violent, gritty, epic fantasy novels and The Smiler’s Fair definitely fulfills those needs. It also uses the storytelling technique of using multiple viewpoints that gradually coincide as the story goes on (this is most famously (perhaps) used in GOT but I think we all know Love Actually is the best use of this…though less people get brutally murdered in that).

Speaking of brutal murders, I cannot stress enough that this book is not for the faint of heart (or stomach). I could list all the content warnings here but I try to keep my reviews around 500 words and then I wouldn’t have any room left for actually discussion. Suffice to say if you don’t want to read about rape/sexual assault, murder, torture, graphic descriptions of illness and violence and also drug addiction then maybe steer clear of this series?

But for those among you whose ears perked up at the mention of all of those things, perhaps these could be new favourites on your bookshelf? The story is one of forgotten/ lost gods, of war between nations, of rags to riches, politics, animals, magic…countless fantasy tropes all of them spun together with finesse. The five main characters which the first book follows are all fascinating and also all flawed (I’ll warn you now, never pick a favourite character because you never know what’ll happen or what they’ll do next to disappoint your expectations. But they’re a varied bunch so there’s something for everyone.

The key element of this world which I’ll mention here (I could take 500 blog posts describing all the different elements if the fancy took me) is The Smiler’s Fair, so named for the God to whom it belongs. Back two days ago when I was young and naive I thought this would be a Night Circus esque affair, boy was I wrong. While the fair is a large moving entity, it is far more…lewd than the night circus is, with prostitutes at every turn. But despite the grime, it is a captivating setting for many of the events in the book. Having said that, the world that Levene has created is vast and hugely detailed, so even if you don’t fancy reading about the fair, you’ll find some place that captures your imagination.

It’s high fantasy, and it contains a lot of elements of other works while still feeling totally original. If violence doesn’t bother you too much, you might really enjoy Smiler’s Fair.

If you want to be notified when tomorrow’s review of the sequel Hunter’s Kind is up then you can either follow this blog or follow me on twitter @judithcmoore and you’ll be among the first to know.

My review: 5/5 stars (or should they be bloodstains?)

Have you read any of this series? Did you manage to stomach it? Let me know in the comments below, I love hearing from you!


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