Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levine
Just finished reading Smiler’s Fair which was very enjoyable. Now, perhaps I’m inclined to excess generosity, being an holiday read, but I genuinely don’t think so. This was a very readable combination of dead (and potentially reborn) deities and prophecies regarding a first born son.
The world here is a strange mix of people, places and cultures ranging, from those who have conquered and believe themselves to be terribly civilised to the tribes that they lord it over. I’m not going to go into all the different races and tribes as their individual histories and cultures are explored well during the tale (although not, I hasten to add, overdone).
My description, briefly is as follows. Many, many (and maybe yet one more ‘many’ for good measure) years ago there were two Gods. The Sun and the Moon. Sister and brother. Unfortunately their opinion differed regarding the creation of their servants and as a result they went to war. The Moon died and his servants were driven underground, unable to live in the Sun’s light. The moon’s servants became known as Worm Men. They also became greatly feared as wherever they appear death usually follows.
Consequently, in order to not give the worm men chance to appear, which they are more likely to do once any structure has been in place long enough to expel the light for a certain period, most villages have become mobile. Basically, if you create any sort of structure upon the earth then the darkness this creates will eventually be found. Caves and mining are a positive no no! Some villages are almost like floating rafts, some little more than encampments that regularly adjust positions if only for the sake of a few paces, and others, such as Smiler’s Fair are fully collapsible structures that fold down into a wagon and can be transported using huge beasts of burden.
Many Gods seem to now be worshipped, although whether any of them have any real foundation is debatable.
At the start of the story we read of the birth of a newborn condemned to death by his own father. The newborn will be Prince and it has been prophesied that he will kill his father. The King doesn’t wish to sit around waiting for his own death and therefore decrees the death of the prince. However the king’s plans go wrong and the newborn infant is smuggled out from under his nose. Years later he will discover his own true beginnings and decide to return. Here starts the story.
There are a number of characters all going off on their own adventures, even whilst their paths sometimes cross. The main characters are Nethmi, who is promised in wedlock and most move from her own town. She’s hopeful for a fresh start. Dae Hyo. From a tribe of warriors that were largely massacred by marauders. Eric, basically, a prostitute or sellcock from Smiler’s Fair whose visions of love spur his actions. Krish, a goat herder from a poor village whose mother and father have a rather violent relationship and Marvan, also of Smiler’s Fair. Something of a twisted individual with a lust for blood.
I am fond of a character driven plot and so in that respect this story is very interesting, although I admit that I had reservations about the actions of most of the characters, barring a couple. I guess you could call them flawed and in one particular character a bit puzzling, or almost out of character. However, and this may seem strange but Smiler’s Fair almost felt like a character itself. It’s central to the plot in fact everything revolves around it. It’s basically a moving carnival. Everything can be found at the fair. It’s a den of iniquity. Debauched, violent and full of gambling and other vices. However, what happens in the Fair, stays in the Fair. It’s almost become a mythical thing in that nobody can predict where it will next show up or halt its progresses. Every morning a roll call is taken and when the first body disappears the Fair moves out!
This is an excellent start to what promises to be an epic series. It perhaps doesn’t bring anything too new to the scene of fantasy, although I thought the concept of the Worm People and the result they have on the lives of all was fairly new (to me anyways).
Magic, mages, murderers, Warriors, gods, giant beast, huge ass flying and talking bats, not to mention pretty creepy worm people! What’s not to love?
A very easy to read book with an intriguing plot and an easy writing style that flows and keeps the pages turning swiftly.
Colour me happy and tell me when the next instalment is due!
I received a copy from the publishers courtesy of Netalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.