In a land of lost wonders, the past is stirring once more . . .
Gene’s life resembles a debutante’s dream. Yet she hides a secret that would see her shunned by the nobility. Gene is both male and female. Then she displays unwanted magical abilities – last seen in mysterious beings from an almost-forgotten age. Matters escalate further when her parents plan a devastating betrayal, so she flees home, dressed as a boy.
The city beyond contains glowing glass relics from a lost civilization. They call to her, but she wants freedom not mysteries. So, reinvented as ‘Micah Grey’, Gene joins the circus. As an aerialist, she discovers the joy of flight – but the circus has a dark side. She’s also plagued by visions foretelling danger. A storm is howling in from the past, but will she heed its roar?
In addition to recommendation from fellow Scribbler, Cynthia, I came to Pantomime just as I had received a very complementary rejection on my latest novel, one which explores gender in a fantasy world, and that particular agent had recommended this book also, citing it as comparative.
Having read the blurb and got stuck in, I was immersed immediately, both in the present day narrative following Micah Grey, a boy who has joined the circus as an aerialist. That storyline alone was compelling, rich in emotion and description and based in a world that is as deep as it is wide. Laura Lam really does take us to another world and transported me from dull, grey and cloudy Scotland to Sicion and the other surrounding lands and cities, the mysterious Penglass scattered throughout.
Then, we are taken through a parallel, but past, storyline of how Micah came to be at the circus. The story of Iphigenia, the well-to-do daughter of a noble family, who was raised as a girl and is entering the period of her life where she must be paired with a suitable boy from another respectable family and settle down.
The genius of this story was not in the world-building (incredible), the well-crafted plot (brilliant and twisty) or the parallel stories, it was in the characters. Deeply flawed, loveable and relatable outsiders who you could not help but fall in love with and root for, from the opening pages through to the dramatic ending. One which I could never have predicted at the start.
I love fantasy and exploring new worlds and I read many books that try to transport us to them, but this is one of the best and I felt entirely immersed in this one and am yearning a return in the sequels. There is so much more to know from the rich history of the different places to the mystery of vestige objects and Penglass.
Do yourself a huge favour this year and read this book. It sneaked into my top 3 of 2016 and I’m sure the next 2 will be in my top books of 2017.