The first volume of Levene’s series The Hollow Gods, “Smiler’s Fair”, is a fantasy novel packed with complex characters, memorable events and gritty storylines.
“Smiler’s Fair” follows the paths of five different characters who visit Smiler’s Fair, a fair that travels the fictional land of Ashaneland and the Territory of the Four Together and “holds one example of all that there is in the world – every food, every spice, every pleasure and every vice.” The main characters experience the fair in different ways – Eric, who travelled with the fair until he ran away to follow his dreams, Nethmi, who visits it twice; first as an innocent bride-to-be, and second to use the fair as a refuge, Dae Hyo, the last of his tribe, filled with a desire for revenge and alcohol, Marvan, a skilled fighter who also ravels with the fair as a Drover and gets pleasure from killing, and finally Krish, who wants nothing more than to be a goatherd but is forced to leave his simple life and become something far more.
Religion in this world is a complicated business, and the waking of the Moon God sparks conflict between his followers and King Nayan and the followers of the Five Gods of the Ashaneland. A war is also being fought between Yron the Moon God and Mizhara the Sun Goddess. The skirmishes between characters as they come across one another – and run from each other – and the relationships they develop as the unrest surrounding the gods escalate, makes for an excellent story full of dark suspense and intricate narratives.
In a land full of unrest and conspiracies, murder and suspense, “Smiler’s Fair” is an epic fantasy novel that’s reminiscent of Game of Thrones. The character’s stories are complex and full of twists and turns, and the book is a must-read if you’re a fan of the epic fantasy genre.