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Smiler's Fair

(The Hollow Gods #1)

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  902 ratings  ·  173 reviews
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 c
Hardcover, 404 pages
Published July 31st 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  902 ratings  ·  173 reviews

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Sean Barrs
Jul 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
There have been so many absurd comparisons between this book, A Game of Thrones and The Night Circus. Let me make it very clear, this book bares no resemblance to either. Yes, there is a fair that is nothing like Morgenstern’s circus; yes, there are noble houses that squabble, but name me a book of this type that has no fighting nobility. So, there are no real solid comparisons. Ill thought out labels, such as this, can only lead to someone being disappointed in an otherwise enjoyable novel. S ...more
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, grimdark
4.5 nearly 5 stars. This was excellent- full of surprises. I've had this on my kindle for a long time and I'm kicking myself now for having waited so long. It's grim, it's dark, its fantastical. The world building is great and so are some of the creatures who inhabit it :Carrion, worm men, mammoths, lizard monkeys, winged horses... there are many tribes and peoples coming from regions like the Moon Forest or across the Rune Wastes.
A prophecy, an infant prince whisked from danger, cults of sun an
Dec 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-sff-faves
I'm giving this book a 4.5*s and I was very surprised by this never having heard of the book or author before. I received this free from Hodderscape, but that doesn't affect my views or opinions on it, it was genuinely really engaging and exciting, and here's why...

This is a story which has been compared to The Night Circus many times, and indeed it does focus on a fair, however this is much darker, grittier and more down to earth than The Night Circus. This story features a couple of different
Kitvaria Sarene
Argh, damn it! Another vanished review...

So again, though this time in less detail, as it's been a long while!

First off - this is Grimdark. This is not at all what the cover makes you expect. Not cute or fluffy or magical feel good.

This one is full of blood and gore and set in a rather bleak world.

I really loved the uniqueness of the world, where in some places you always have to keep moving. Stop and you might as well kill yourself! I loved how this shaped society and made for a fresh feel, whi
Oct 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: abandoned-series

When I saw this book here on goodreads I was sooo excited. Read that plot, look at that cover; it screams "I am the perfect, unique book you were looking for." Well let me tell you, it lies. Smiler's fair it's not a bad book, it isn't horrible, it isn't awfully written or anything like that. But to me, it fell flat. When I saw it, I sent a message to a friend in which I was all about "hey have you seen it? It will be awesome!"
Uhm...dear me of two months ago, this is what I tell you:

Well, to
Jul 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Also posted on my blog, Rinn Reads.

Smiler’s Fair is definitely not a book for the faint of heart. Opening with a rather gory and graphic birth scene, the gruesome detail continues without, showing the reader that this world is not an easy one to live in. Whilst ‘Smiler’s Fair’ may sound like a pleasant place, this is but a front for the grim reality. Prostitution, gambling, brawls and duels, all the seedy parts o
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
With the review linked!

I rarely have reviewed books so quickly and here it goes! Let me know your thoughts!
Laura Hughes
Jul 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Never judge a book by its cover. I went straight into Smiler’s Fair believing it to be a light YA fantasy. Instead I got one of the most gory and shocking beginnings I’ve ever read, followed by a series of events that rarely failed to include some form of death, sex or violence. Aside from this, book #1 in the Hollow Gods series is pretty much your quintessential run-of-the-mill fantasy fare.

The author has created a fairly well-imagined world with some nicely original quirks, such as cities pul
Kimberley de Jong
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Grim dark fantasy lovers, diverse characters and original worldbuilders
Shelves: fantasy, own-it
”Rebecca Levene has written the most stunning first volume epic fantasy since Game of Thrones. It’s a little bit grim dark, a little bit epic, and a whole lot of incredible. If George R.R. Martin wrote The Night Circus, Smiler’s Fair would be the result.” - Cover Blurb.

Now I haven’t read The Night Circus (yet), but I don’t really understand the need to compare it to Game of Thrones. It’s probably a great eye catcher. And yes, there’s noble houses, there’s sex and crude violence, characters you g
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Rebecca Levene has written the most stunning first volume epic fantasy since Game of Thrones. It’s a little bit grimdark, a little bit epic, and a whole lot of incredible. If George R.R. Martin wrote The Night Circus, Smiler’s Fair would be the result. Go. Buy. It.
Liz Barnsley
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Before I talk about this one I have a little secret to tell you. I mostly dislike Epic Fantasy. You are looking at the girl who detested the Game of Thrones novels (too much death, not clever anymore just irritating) who after several attempts gave up on Lord of the Rings as endlessly dull and although I read a lot of it trying to find the love, it doesnt happen often. I was however highly intrigued by this one when the lovely peeps over at Hodderscape told me I’d love it. They know what they ar ...more
K.J. Charles
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: epic-fantasy
It's been a while since I read any epic fantasy. This is a big sprawling canvas of a book, where the stories really only start to intersect very late on. Very much the first in a series, we've only just started getting into the proper story. Excellent worldbuilding and some really fascinating ideas, brilliant set up, and how nice to see a fantasy world that doesn't just base its morals on one real-world usually medieval doctrine.

There's a nice tendency to extreme violence that makes you genuine
Emma Jones
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
I probably got to about halfway 3 or 4 times before giving up.

I first walked past this book whilst I was in the UK; and didn't buy it as I had to lug any books I bought (too many already) back to Sydney - but I did give in and order it later on. It looks pretty; it sounds good.

Plus, I'm always in favour of a good epic fantasy series.

This one doesn't quite hit the mark - I feel like I'm in the minority here, but I just couldn't enjoy it. I tried, many times.

The writings decent; the characters ar
Maja Ingrid
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
4,5 stars but rounding up because it was a great book!

This book's been sitting on my shelf for years! I think I bought it sometime after reading The Troupe. I think I wanted more traveling circus/carnival/troupe and I thought Smiler's fair was that. It's not. (Well, there is a traveling carnival named Smiler's fair but the book is more than about that.) But, without even properly reading the back of it, I later thought it being young adult, mostly due to the cover, so i put off reading it. Now,
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
I wasn't really sure if this was grabbing me at the start , there was just so much going on and each chapter seemed to move to a completely new character , each in a different setting and background .
And then it all starts to click. It all losely rotates around the traveling smiler fair , and a Mary Sue goat herder character . Nothing ground breaking in that but the juggling of multiple threads , being a bit dark and sexual in content , and the introduction of interesting and complex character m
Smiler's Fair was a fantastic start to a new series from British author Rebecca Levene and it left me desperate to dive straight into the next book The Hunter's Kind. This is the best kind of fantasy, one with rich world building, interesting mythology, a fantastic range of characters and plenty of secrets to keep you guessing.

Hundreds of years ago the moon god fought with the sun goddess and lost, after his death his servants fled underground and have since turned into monstrous creatures who w
James Latimer
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: women, hidden-gems
This is a very good book, and there's a lot going for it, but I wonder if there's just something missing that explains why it didn't make an even bigger splash. Bags of creativity, wonderfully flawed & diverse characters, a grim world with plenty of action and darkness (who says women don't write grimdark?), epic stakes...and yet, it didn't quite blow me away. Some of that may be that it's a clear set-up book with many unanswered questions, a main cast of unheroic characters, not enough of whom ...more
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely one of the best epic fantasies I've ever read. Similar to Joe Abercrombie or GRRM. Dark and brutal, don't let the cover deceive you.

You have the orphaned chosen one. The Moon god has been reborn in this young man and eventually it becomes a big hunt to find him by practically everyone. Most have different interests, but all the same goal.

There's the washed up warrior who just wants a final revenge for the slaughter of his people. A noble woman who is wedded to an unfortunate tribesm
Fascinating worldbuilding and some interesting moments but the rest... meh? Typical 3-star book: not bad, not great. Average.
Aug 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 2014-rev

3.5 stars

A baby is rescued from the death his father the king intends. Years later, Smiler's Fair draws together a diverse set of people, each with their own needs and destinies.

I'm not a Doctor Who fan, and I'd never heard of Rebecca Levene before this, but I enjoyed this fantasy novel. The writing is smooth, and the plot complex, but she does a pretty good job of keeping the many threads of her plot distinct.

Levene describes a mostly standard fantasy universe, with a t
Oct 26, 2014 rated it liked it
This first part in a series of four contains all the usual components of modern epic fantasy: the prince whose destiny is to kill his father and reclaim his birthright, the master swordsman, the pretty noble girl married off to an old dude, the medieval setting with a few fantastical elements added, and the prostitution, good lord, the prostitution. Did you know, sex work is just a job like any other! Making the swordsman a serial killer and the prostitute male doesn't really subvert expectation ...more
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
TW/CW : very gory "C-section" - as in : cut someone open to get her baby out - (first chapter), rape, domestic violence, a lot of fatphobia (in the narration so unchallenged), mention of terrible violence against women, slavery... There might be more and I'll add it if I remember something later.

Also one of the MC is a sex worker, he is also the only gay character in the story and I have no idea if the sex work aspect is well done. He isn't ashamed of it and is never really shamed for it either
Karen Rós
Mar 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. It was a bit confusing in the beginning when new people kept being introduced and it took a while before any of the people introduced reappeared. Not seeing any links between them, it was also difficult to decide who to care for. The person the book revolves around didn't actually have much screen time either.

That said, it got good once I got going, and I'm now really invested in seeing what happens next. The characters were all well fleshed out, even the unsympathetic
Jan 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sff
I was hooked the minute when I realized many of the characters were brown-skinned and had Sanskrit names. Call me biased.

Smiler's Fair is hard to describe. It was a cross between grimdark and epic fantasy, a new genre if ever there was one. The characters are murky, and it's hard to pin down motive for most of them. There's a male prostitute, a serial killer who does't have a heart-of-gold, an orphaned noble-woman who shacks up with said serial killer, a perpetually drunk bad-ass tribesman; and
May 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff
I wavered a lot between 3 and 4 stars here -- there are multiple POVs that were all equally interesting (a hard balance to achieve imo), the worldbuilding really caught my attention, the tropes incorporated are done very well but the majority of the book is setup. That will work for you or it won't. Personally I was more than ok with taking the scenic route to setup the plot for the series but it's something that will definitely have to stand on the shoulders of the next book(s) to be successful ...more
Dec 17, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, kindle, 2014
An interesting premise but don't be too carried away by the 5 star reviews. This book takes a long time to get going, in fact I'm not sure it ever does. It reads like one giant prologue, and many of the plot lines and characters seemed pointless. There's a difference between subverting tropes and just plain random writing- Nethmi's arc for instance. It laid enough groundwork that I'll pick up book 2 but it's not a recommendation yet. ...more
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a very dark book set in an extremely unique world. I really enjoyed it, and I will definitely be reading the rest of the Hollow Gods series when it comes out. My full review will come soon!
Maraya21 (The Reading Dragon)
This is currently ON HOLD .
I will continue reading this at a later time.
Original start date: April 21, 2019
Put On Hold: October 27, 2019
originally posted at:

One trope that always works for me in Epic Fantasy are gods and deities. When they are involved it always broadens the scope of the story and what I have come to understand from my reading ventures so far is that they can turn the story into unexpected directions. There are so many interpretations possible of gods that it will always turn into a unique story and Smiler's Fair is no exception. Rebecca Levene craftily uses the god aspec
Emma Sterner-Radley
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant read with fascinating characters of all kinds. I'd recommend this to anyone who's ready for a dark but very imaginative tale! ...more
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British author, editor and tv storyliner.
Educated at Clare College, Cambridge.
She has written books for Virgin's Doctor Who line, Abbadon books and Black Flame.
She also writes for Doctor Who Magazine and SFX.

Other books in the series

The Hollow Gods (3 books)
  • The Hunter's Kind  (The Hollow Gods, #2)
  • The Sun's Domain (The Hollow Gods, #3)

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