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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Review: Pantomime by Laura Lam

Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Published: February 5, 2013
Pages: 392
Source: For Review from Strange Chemistry
Rating: 4 Stars

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.

In short: Pantomime by Laura Lam is a highly original and profound read with a shocking twist.
What a bizarre and yet completely fascinating and original read Pantomime was. One with an utterly shocking twist that is sure to leave you reeling. And unfortunately, it's that twist that is going to make Pantomime so hard to review because I don't want to ruin the surprise. So let's keep it simple and vague: Iphigenia, or Gene as she likes to be called, is a tomboy who wants no part leading the life of a lady, but is being heavily pressured by her marriage-obsessed mother. Micah is a vagrant of noble upbringing who runs away and finds a new home in the circus. Gene and Micah have a secret - a MAJOR one. Chapters alternate between Gene and Micah, but again, I can't say how the two are connected.

Pantomime is a fantasy though it's a very subtle one - the story reads like a Victorian Era novel with some added magical realism and a hint of fantastical mythology and history. I liked that a lot. It grounded the story and allowed the reader to focus more on the issues Gene and Micah have to deal with while maintaining a certain level of intrigue and fascination with the world. The circus atmosphere was great; debut author Laura Lam describes with perfect clarity an old-fashioned circus complete with clowns and acrobats and freaks.

I felt a heart-wrenching sympathy for Gene and Micah as they deal with the pressure to be normal and fit in, but also pride for their nerve and courage to not give in to that pressure and not want to change who they were born to be. Both Gene and Micah reach some pretty low points in Pantomime and my heart broke for them, but both demonstrate some serious chutzpah when dealing with their situations. There is some romance in Pantomime and it's of the LGBT variety. It was exciting to me, having LGBT issues brought up in a fantasy book, because it's usually contemporary reads or nothing and I applaud Laura Lam for bringing the topic to the forefront in Pantomime.

The pacing in Pantomime is a little slow and there's not much in the way of action - with the exception of the ending - but I found I didn't mind too much because I was so involved in the story and characters. I would have liked a bit more development in the mythology and history of the world as I was left with quite a few questions in the end. Overall though, I appreciated Pantomime for its originality and Laura Lam for choosing to write a book that deals with complicated and sensitive issues regarding gender identity.

Other Reviews:
My Precious
Typing Tiara
Wishful Thinking

Authors Links:


  1. oOOh this looks really cool! I love that cover and the premise sounds super intriguing!

  2. I didn't really like the sound of this before but I'm really interested to find out what that twist is now! Great review Aylee :)

  3. I am so curious about how they are connected now! Damn you, my TBR is already so long but I need to see where this one goes. I love a good twist that genuinely takes you by surprise. It's not often that I find one of those. The slow pace kind of scares me, but I'm sure the ending would make up for it.

  4. I can relate with no feeling like I fit in, so Micah sounds up my alley.
    Glad that it was unique and good twists.
    Happy reading,
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  5. Ooooo this sounds so good Aylee! I really like that it's a fantasy and yet still incorporates issues more typically scene in contemporary books like gender identity. I think it would be interesting to see those issues explored against a very different type of backdrop:) Wonderful review!

  6. Ohh, Strange Chemistry has some really interesting titles coming out this year! I love the sound and cover of this one and have a copy from Netgalley to check out, must do that ASAP to see what this big twist is. Great review!

  7. AHH YOU GOT ME AT TWIST! I really want to know the twist now. I thought it already sounded intriguing but now I'll definitely be on the look out for this.

  8. "Pantomime is a fantasy though it's a very subtle one - the story reads like a Victorian Era novel with some added magical realism and a hint of fantastical mythology and history."

    Where can I get a copy?? Seriously, that sounds fantastic! I don't mind slow books, they can be really good sometimes. And now I really want to know what the twist is and how Gene en Micah are connected!


  9. The combination of everything you've mentioned - fantasy, Victorian Era, magical realism, sounds like a dream come true, to be honest. I love a good worldbuilding and this sounds exactly like my kind of thing. It helps that the book is so unusual, I'm quite excited about it.
    Considering this, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't mind the slower pacing at all. Strange Chemistry has been publishing some really original and intriguing titles lately.
    Great review.

  10. Oh I want to see this twist now! And it sounds like the setting will be fun. How do you do the colours at the top of your review where you have Publisher, Source etc.? I want to do something related and have no idea how!
    Good review :D

  11. I'm planning to read this one, I just need to find the time. It sounds like an interesting one. I never read about a circus before!

  12. This sounds like something I would LOVE. Nice that it combines so many different issues and themes.

  13. Lovely review! I don't believe I've read anything about this book yet...sounds like an interesting read. I'm excited to hear the romance is of the LGBT variety. It really doesn't come up with fantasy novels, it seems, so it's nice to see a debut author changing that. :)


  14. Oh Aylee, you nailed this review! For me this was such an awesome read. I'm so happy to see you appreciated it too. The ending was very cruel and I can't wait until the next book. For me the twist was easy to figure out and I wonder if the author really meant it to be a twist?

  15. This is on my to read list too! Glad you liked it! Very curious what the twist is and thanks for not giving it away!

    There seems to be a lot of Victorian Era books right now-- not that I'm complaining! I like that time period!

    Lauren @ Hughes Reviews

  16. This one sounds so good! I'm especially fond of the tomboy protagonist thing since I'm a tomboy myself. I definitely need to pick this one up. :D

  17. I only recently added this one to my reading pile. Reading your review I just know it's a story I could get into! I love the idea of 'magical realism' and subtle mythology. And I'm excited about the LGBT element in there, you're right - it's rarely seen in fantasy books. Thanks for the brilliant review Aylee, it's always tough to review a book when you can't reveal much of anything but you did a great job :)

  18. I think it's awesome that a fantasy does bring LGBT issues to the forefront. You're right - that's usually something you'd expect to find a contemporary novel. I also know what the huge plot twist is because I read an interview with Laura Lam (what can I say, sometimes I like being spoiled). I am glad that you enjoyed this book, and I'm now even more eager to read it myself.

  19. I enjoyed this one. But woah, was it hard to review without spoiling. I also really enjoyed the writing. I am looking forward to the other book(s). Surprise, surprise, it looks like a trilogy. I am hoping we'll see more from the mythical part of the story.