Top critical review
on 6 February 2015
Rebecca Levene has set herself a challenging task, by attempting to lay the foundation of a great fantasy epic that can sustain a cycle of novels. By and large, she managed a competent execution. It's just... I think she might be attempting to do something that can't realistically be done any more. There is no conceivable fantasy world now that doesn't seem hackneyed and cliched, no matter how much you may shuffle around the bits. Smiler's Fair is a spirited attempt to create something new, but it does so in an environment where the narrative bones have been picked fairly clean. It has elements of eroticism, but that ground has already been well and truly claimed by Game of Thrones. It has a seedy, vaguely carnivalesque moving city, but in that can be heard the echoes of the Forgotten Realms. There is secret royalty, but that was so predictable a fantasy trope that Terry Pratchett was mercilessly satirising it years ago. It's not that it seems to be intentionally (or unintentionally) derivative. It's just there are very few fruits to pluck from the branches now. It all comes across as 'same as it ever was'.
Don't get me wrong - it's a competent book, and if you're not over-saturated yet on fantasy worlds you might find something of value in here. For me, there was nothing that ignited a sense of wonder or mystery, and as a result each page turn felt like a chore rather than a prospect of wonders to come.