Paperback (Hodder & Stoughton, 404 pages)
First published 2014; this edition published 2015)
Rating on Goodreads: 2 stars
Review copy courtesy of Bookbridgr
“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.”
I wanted to like this. I really, really did. But for all its promise, it ended up feeling to me like a rip-off of A Song of Ice and Fire. There are several viewpoints, but unlike George R. R. Martin, Levene can’t pull it off. It’s too distracting, and the characters aren’t fleshed-out well enough, to the point where I wondered what the hell I was actually reading. I feel like Smiler’s Fair should have been a longer book in order to effectively create the world vividly enough for the readers – I certainly wouldn’t have minded that.
There were parts I did enjoy, I won’t deny that. Certain descriptive pieces and turns of phrase were beautiful. But overall, Levene’s world-building and exposition just seemed to me to be a mess. It didn’t feel coherent or cohesive, and I really wish it had. It’s a shame, because the premise sounded brilliant. But I just couldn’t lose myself in this. It was too disjointed.