People say don’t judge a book by its cover. We’re all guilty of it, but this is a definite case in point. You’re expecting something perhaps a little lighthearted – regardless of specifics, the opening scene of a baby being sliced from his mother’s stomach sets a rather gruesome bar that underpins the entire book.
Yron the moon god died, reborn in the false king’s son; his father sought to kill him upon birth, but his mother sacrificed herself in that rather gruesome fashion to save him. He’s set to return one day and claim his birthright, to change everything. Then there’s the Smiler’s Fair, the roaming carnival where there’s pleasure aplenty if you have the coin.
Levene does what some of the best epic fantasy does in that she doesn’t shirk the detail and reality of sex and violence, be that prostitution or frenzied slaughter. She creates a wide cast of characters, each with their own story and voice, but isn’t afraid to kill them off if need be – which can work as a good thing because there might have been a few too many at times.
The setting is credible, but not necessarily as detailed as some other fantasy realms would go, and it generally works. It feels more like a book that plans for its sequel, leaving hints that need to be picked up, and has enough to hook your interest until the follow up.
31 Jul 2014 | Hodder & Stoughton