This is my review for Smile Of The Harlequin by Veronica Cervilla. I was provided with a review copy in exchange for a review, but this has not impacted the review whatsoever. As always, unless otherwise stated, book reviews at Novellique are spoiler free. Check out other reviews at Novellique here.
The Smile Of The Harlequin by Veronica Cervilla
“The kingdom of Poker was the place chosen by the gods to shelter the four elements -Air, Fire, Water and Earth- that made up the universe, on which the natural balance depends. Thus, the protection of each element was assigned to a Guardian from each one of the Domains of the kingdom: Hearts, Clubs, Spades and Diamonds.
The continuous conflicts arisen from the attempts to take over the elements sunk the kingdom into the strictest government under the Council supervision. Poker remained in a masked peace for a long time until an incident in the Confines, a place for criminals and other who dared to break the rules, will threaten the balance of the universe and the future of the kingdom. Atenea, the warrior leader of the army of Spades, will be the one in charge to prevent the chaos from spreading along the Domains as she is forced to face her own past demons and question her loyalty to the kingdom and its rules.“
The full title of “Poker Kingdom. The Smile Of The Harlequin” seems rather long for a standalone novel (see plot notes).
I can see what was trying to be done with the cover, but I still have mixed emotions – while I’m aware this isn’t something the author usually has great control over, but the yellow and strange blue colour wouldn’t initially otherwise want me to pick the novel up.
I think this was the biggest problem for me – I felt distant from the characters, like there was a wall between me and them. While reading I was trying to work out why, and as far as I can tell I think it was because of the limited description. The narrative was very dialogue heavy, which is good for character building but can leave the reader behind very quickly if they don’t have a mental picture of what is happening or detailed descriptions of the characters.
Most of the plot was predictable but I bumped this rating up by half a star because there were some well delivered twists which, overall, improved the story. I didn’t feel like this twists were put in purely for their shocking value – they helped reveal details about the characters. I feel like this one novel could have been stretched into four books: it read more like a fairytale or a plot summary, in points, than a consistently paced novel. I could imagine a series called Poker Kingdom with one book being dedicated to each of the guardians and their elements. I think this would have done much greater service to the authors original idea and given them time to fully explore the concepts they were writing about. The pacing, for me personally, is such an important point when I’m reading a book and this just felt slightly off.
The characterisation of the novel was one of it’s strong points. While I think there were definitely far too many being introduced near the beginning, the characters felt real and avoided a lot of cliche tropes – for example, the female warrior. If i had to make one complaint it would be that nearer the end she seems to repeatedly mention being unable to have children. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are many people who, if required to not have children by their job, would complain about it – but it gets the to point where it’s only relatable if you’re desperate to have children. I don’t know – that bit is just a personal observation.
I liked the concept and overall I think SMILE OF THE HARLEQUIN was okay – a fit for my three star rating. I liked it, it was okay, but there are some factors which meant I enjoyed it less than I wanted to. I’m wondering if a large part of this was the fact this has been translated: I want to talk about this for a bit. According to Goodreads, the original version has a 4.20 rating and (in my opinion) a much better cover – this suggests it’s more of a language or translation issue than the actual writing skill of the author, which is understandable!
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