Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review: Pantomime

Pantomime by Laura Lam

It took me a little while to get my thoughts together on this. Not because I didn't like it. On the contrary, I liked it a lot and am looking forward to the next one. I'm trying not to be spoilery, but there is no way to talk about one of the most important aspects of the book with revealing some secrets, so you have been warned.

Pantomime takes place in a world where magical and strange beings called Chimaera and Alder once lived among people. In some places they were worshipped, in others feared. They had magnificent "Penglass" structures that people can only look at and wonder. The Alder left behind Vestige, artifacts that are collected and used in the circus our protagonist joins. It is a world that used to have magic, so during the course of book 1, there isn't a whole lot of the fantastical. We just get some glimpses of what Gene/Micah can do, and what the Chimaera and Alder left behind. However, now the stage has been set, so I am expecting a bit more magic in the next go round, as well as the investigation of some mysteries (like who is the powerful Dr. Pozzi?). There have been enough hints that the magic is returning.

The main story is of Micah Grey's apprenticeship with the circus. He has run away from home and his excellent climbing skills, balance, and strength earn him a job training for the trapeze. He endures hazing from the clowns, becomes romantically interested in Aenea, the girl on the flying trapeze, and becomes closer to Drystan, a clown with many secrets. Micah's story is interspersed with the tale of Iphigenia, Gene, Laurus. She is just about to make her debut in society, although she would much rather be climbing, playing, and in general, not pursuing the interests of a "proper young girl". She also has a secret, one that makes her mother take her to doctor after doctor. She is both male and female, a kedi, not seen since the disappearance of magic from the land. Micah and Gene are the same person.

I was really taken with the sensitive and honest portrayal of Gene/Micah's journey. I never felt that I was being pandered to, or that this was for shock purposes. It felt very real, the fear of discovery, that belief that acceptance by others is a fantasy. Very heartbreaking at times, and never overdone.

I wanted to punch Gene's parents many times, too, as well as some other characters. I also came to really like a lot of the supporting cast. There is a bit of a triangle, but it was very well done. Micah, and that is what I'll call hir, is attracted to both sexes. Again, this is not overdone or too angsty. I can't give Lam enough kudos for how she handled this.

So, is Pantomime "just" a circus fantasy - no, and I am so glad it isn't. I'll be reading book 2.

[received an ARC]

*I Googled transgender pronouns, and that's where I got hir. He/she didn't sound right and it is insulting. There are many different opinions on it, but hir felt best to me.


  1. Hmmm, I think I've seen this cover before. But sounds like a very good read. And I know what you mean about struggling with the review as you enjoyed the book so. I go through that with a few books too. :) Thank you.

  2. It can be tough sometimes, it's true!