Review: Smiler’s Fair. Book 1 of the Hollow Gods by Rebecca Levene

404 pagessmiler
Hodder & Stoughton
published in 2014

1. Smiler’s Fair
2. The Hunter’s Kind

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 am so impressed! This is probably the best book I read so far this year. And it’s not a very well known series, which is a shame if you ask me. It’s epic high fantasy as it should be! With a compelling story, intriguing characters and many twists & turns.

I don’t even know how to start. Everything about this book convinced me. It has a lovely history about how the world was created that involves the moon god as well as the sun god. They ended up fighting each other and the moon lost. His followers turned into creatures called worm-men who live underground and eat humans whenever they stay in one spot for too long. This is why whole cities & places always have to be on the move! If you stay in one place for too long, the worm-men will get you! There are still human worshippers of the moon though who talk about the moon god being reborn and claiming back his spot.

It’s basically a good old quest fantasy. We have different characters following different paths within a world where everything is about gaining and keeping power & finding the reborn Moon God.

Smiler’s Fair is the center of the story, where we get introduced to most of the main characters and there are quite a few of them. They seem to be nothing special when you first meet them but oh man, I was so wrong. They surprised me all the time and have so many different layers that make them special and believable. I often didn’t expect them to do what they did and was blown away!

There’s Krish, the goatherd who is living an unhappy life with his timid mom and aggressive dad. He’s very sickly, caring and pays attention to detail. He also gets in all sorts of trouble after he did something pretty nasty and needs to be on the run.

Nethmi is the daughter of a dead nobleman who is about to get married to an older lord living up in the mountains and the snow. You might think you’ve read this story before but Nethmi’s storyline is probably the one that blew my mind the most as it’s going into a totally unexpected direction.

Dae Hyo is a massive tribesman who watched his people get slaughtered and is now keen on revenge. Unfortunately he is also a massive drunk which doesn’t really help him in his quest.He also has interesting views on how the world was created:

‘Now these are the true gods,’ Dae Hyo said. ‘See, here are Belbog and Volog, the fathers of the universe.’ He pointed at the topmost portraits of identical men with broad, smiling faces. ‘Volog pissed out the ocean and Belbog shat out the earth. But then the all-mother Bogdana came along -‘a red faced woman with golden hair’- and she cried  because the world the brothers made was so ugly. Her tears became rain and the rain ran into rivers. Fish swam in them and trees grew on the banks, the way trees do. She made the world beautiful, like only a woman can.’

Marvan only wants to kill, kill, kill people. And he has a cat.

And at last there is Eric, a 15-year old whore who fell in love with one of his clients and follows him just to get in trouble with his sweetheart’s wife. Bad decision, Eric! I still loved him, as he can be very sarcastic and literally doesn’t give a sh*t any more. And he has to put up with a lot of it later in the story. Oh, and he makes friends with a giant talking moth/bat-thing that’s carrying people around!

I loved reading about all of the characters and their story. They all intertwine and some characters might even cross ways or travel together. The Fair is the one big place that connects all storylines and gives us a great showdown in the end.

I loved that the book is very dark. There’s a lot of graphic violence, sex scenes, killings and no one is innocent! All characters make some good & some very bad decisions.

And the end.. I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WHO ARE THE GOOD AND THE BAD GUYS ANY MORE! WHO SHOULD I CHEER FOR?

Great book! Already ordered the second one 🙂

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