R. H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass—remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone—are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimaera is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.
Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star.
But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.
This has got to be the most original book I’ve ever read. The fact that it’s a debut novel just makes it even more awesome! I absolutely loved this one, with its fantasy elements and incorporation of a particularly sensitive topic. Laura Lam has done a great job of balancing the humour of the circus with the underlying seriousness of the protagonist’s condition, and I found myself desperate for the sequel.
I want to start off by saying that the description for this book is very misleading. I dove into this expecting the usual fantasy romance novel, but man, was I surprised! There’s a twist near the beginning of the book, and it’s something you can figure out within the first few chapters. I certainly did, and it completely changed the way I perceived the novel. I certainly did not expect it to be an LGBT novel! I haven’t read one of these before, but I found myself really liking this book. Pantomime does have a lot of shocking moments, things that we cannot even begin to imagine no matter how much we try. The complete unpredictability of this book is what made me love it so much. That, and the incredible characters.
Gene has always loved boyish things more than girly ones. She prefers climbing trees with her brother Cyril and his friends, rather than sit at home and sew. She prefers wearing comfortable baggy pants rather than hot and stuffy dresses. The reason I love Gene so much is that she kind of reminds me of me. I can really connect with her regarding her likes and dislikes, and I actually get her. Of course, there are a lot of aspects of her life that I couldn't empathize with, only sympathize. I felt incredibly sorry for her throughout most of the novel. But I felt happy about the fact that she did have at least one person in her life who accepted her for who she is - her brother, Cyril. He was definitely my favourite character in this book. I loved how brotherly and protective he was towards Gene, and that he loved her despite how different she was. Whenever Gene's side of the novel came up, I always looked forward to reading about Cyril.
Despite how much I liked Cyril, I have to say that Micah's side of the story was definitely more interesting. Micah shows up at the Circus of Magic, and riskily proves his acrobatic skills to earn a place with the circus folk. However, this place comes with a cost. He is constantly ragged by the other circus folk during his first few weeks with them, but he learns to get past it. I loved Micah's courage and spunk, and his overall cheekiness. He arrived at the circus with not a penny to his name, and managed to find a way to earn a living.
As I've mentioned before, the characters of this book are pretty amazing. Cyril I've already talked about. Two other characters I really loved are Aenea and Drystan. Aenea is a trapeze artist, who trains Micah along with Arik, her partner in the performances. A relationship soon develops between Aenea and Micah, though it's somewhat strained, on account of the enormous secrets both of them are keeping. Aenea is beautiful and entrancing, and she's a no-nonsense kind of girl. I liked that about her, that she tells it like it is and doesn't let anyone push her around. I guess that's a result of growing up in a circus.
Drystan is one of the clowns in the circus. He's described as striking, and, well, he's probably my second-favourite character in this book. Drystan's got a huge secret of his own, something Micah only finds out a lot later. Now I come to think of it, every single character in Pantomime is closely guarding a ginormous secret. Anyway, Drystan is another love interest of Micah's. Yeah, that's right. Micah's love interests are male and female. I have to say I loved Drystan more. He's different from the rest of the circus, and is the only one who was actually nice to Micah right from the start. He also figures out Micah's secret early on, but keeps it to himself. He's incredibly understanding, and is always there for Micah, which I found really sweet. I can't wait to read more of him in the next book!
Laura Lam's writing is beautiful - the way she describes the circus and the atmosphere around it. She made me feel like I was actually there witnessing the spectacle. The intricate detail in the scenes were amazing, and it made me appreciate the novel even more. I found my heart in my mouth in every action scene, every tense moment. As Micah and Aenea owned the trapeze during their performances, I silently urged them on in my head.
Pantomime is definitely a debut to remember. Trust me, you don't want to miss out on this! It may be slightly uncomfortable for some people, but I loved that Laura Lam has the guts to write openly about a subject like this, while simultaneously embedding magic and fantasy into the novel. There's still a huge secret about Micah that we haven't found out in this book, and I'm eagerly anticipating the sequel to revisit this world and discover more about it.
*Thank you to Laura Lam for providing an ARC for review*