Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Pantomime by Laura Lam

Published: February 2013 (I have an ARC)
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Series: Micah Grey Series #1
Website: Laura Lam’s Blog

*My first NetGalley ARC! Many thanks!

Introduction
Iphigenia Laurus, also known as Gene, is the daughter of a wealthy family, being raised in the typical fashion. She learns to dance, sing, sew...but her real purpose as a woman is to marry. And she hates this life. She feels that she does not belong and that life as a pampered woman is ill-suited for her. On the other hand, we have Micah. He has run away from his parents with the police on his trail. While he did not intend on it when he entered R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic, he joins them as an aerialist. He has to hide who he is from his fellow performers and try to live in the complex social world of the circus. If he can’t cut it, he will be swallowed up by street life in no time at all.   

Genre
YA fantasy, but the fantasy elements are very faint. The atmosphere is more of an alternate Victorian England, and could arguably be considered a light steampunk. The rich are prim and proper and they play their roles in society. The poor scrape by or are destitute. The world of Ellada is filled with pieces of ancient technology, called Vestige, and Penglass. Not really a book full of magic. Even when the Penglass begins to react, the subject is dropped until the end of the book. It is more of a story about identity, gender issues, the gender binary, and independence. More of a character drama because in the end, not much happens. Micah goes to the circus and joins. He has to keep his identity secret. We get flashbacks of Gene's life. Micah questions his identity some more. He starts to like a girl. The big reveal to his friends about who he is...and it’s over. The pacing is slow, but still interesting to read.  
At the beginning of the chapters are blurbs from books in Ellada that explain their religion (the Lord of the Sun and the Lady of the Moon), myths, and circus information. By the end of the book, I still do not fully comprehend the world. I sense that it is a rich world that was not adequately presented to the reader.

The Circus
            The passages describing the circus are intriguing. The description of the acts were not particularly gripping for me; rather I enjoyed the dynamic character interactions. You would imagine that a circus is one big family of performers, but it is not. Poor Micah is hazed because he is the newcomer. The others are particularly cruel to him, and he must bear it to stay. He finds companions in Drystan and Aenea, though he still cannot reveal himself to them.
            Yet we come to realize that Micah is not the only one who has run away from life and joined the circus. Everyone has their secrets. My favourite character is the white clown, Drystan. He is much more detailed than Aenea, and I felt that I “knew” him more than her. The circus is full of colourful characters, though I thought the author could have done more with the characters she introduced us to.

Love Story
            I didn’t particularly...like or dislike Aenea. She was just a bit flat. And Micah is still trying to figure out his gender/sexual identity, so the romance was a bit tainted. Yes, there is a love story, but I did not quite buy into it. Honestly, I was more interested in Drystan.

Ending
            It ended on one of the most crushing cliff hangers ever. I still have no idea what Penglass is supposed to be and I was expecting most of the mysteries to be explained by the end of the book. Not a whole lot was explained. I still have 99% of the questions that I asked while reading the book. Micah is...magical? Or not? What about his origins? The book teased us all the way through and leaves us in the dark.

Gripe
Aside from the ending, the only gripe I have with the book is a fairly obvious one: the whole “Gene and Micah” element that you see in the blurbs did not fool me at all, and I find the blurb misleading. The reality of the book is much more interesting. The big reveal of the two “characters” was not a surprise. It’s terribly obvious. The blurb should be different.

Verdict
            If you want a book that certainly is different from the vast majority of YA lit, Pantomime is a great choice. The cover definitely brought me in-look at it! It’s gorgeous! I am not a fan of the official blurb it gets, but it more than makes up for it with the themes of sexual and gender identity and independence. With that said, I think it would make for a great YA book club pick, if the teens are a tad bit on the older side. Currently, the teens I’m involved with are probably too young to really get the issues present, and I am not particularly trying to get uptight parents angry with me. If you don’t mind slower, character driven stories, I recommend this.  



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