Originally, I picked up this book because it had an interesting cover. I don’t usually judge a book by its cover but in this case the cover just looked so intriguing that I had to pick it up! When I read the back of the book I was further intrigued! I really enjoy gaslamp fantasy novels, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern being my favourite from this genre (it’s so good everyone should go read it right now!). Even though Pantomime falls nicely into the gaslamp fantasy genre it remains unique. Never have I ever read a book with such complicated themes set in a world like this. This book takes fantasy, circus, magic, and rolls in themes like self acceptance, coming of age, LGBTQ+, and intersexuality.
This story is about one person. Gene is a noble girl with a secret. She is both male and female – intersexual. If her secret were to leak out it would be a scandal and she and her whole family would be shunned from society. Then she displays strange magical abilities – last seen in mysterious beings from an almost-forgotten age – The Vestige. Gene discovers her parents are not her real parents and plan to have an unwanted medical procedure performed on her, so she decides she needs to run away from home. So, Gene takes on a new name and becomes Micah Grey, a boy who joins the circus and becomes an aerialist. Micah trains hard and falls in love, but the dark side of the circus forces him to run for his life again.
Honestly, while I really enjoyed this book I felt the story was a bit slow and a little confusing at times. The story hops between Gene’s life as a noble, and Micah’s life in the circus. As the time lines get closer and closer to merging (ie, when Gene becomes Micah) it can get a little confusing as to when things are happening. Despite the slow pace I felt it really picked up near the end as Micah’s secret is exposed and he needs to flee for his life. However, beware! The cliffhanger at the end is real. My library system doesn’t have the second book yet (Shadowplay – 9781509807802, published Jan. 2017) so I have to either buy the sequel myself or wait patiently… heavy sigh.
Another thing I felt was a bit confusing was the Vestige, the ancient civilization that disappeared, leaving only magical artifacts behind.. I felt there wasn’t enough backstory about this and would have appreciated a prologue or foreword describing it in further detail. Perhaps in the next two books more about the Vestige will be revealed as more magic like Micah’s is awakened..
I felt that Laura Lam did a really good job at portraying Gene’s confusion about whether she is male or female. Gene doesn’t quite feel like a female, but not quite a male either. Which is why she is so easily able to slip into Micah’s world. Gene/Micah is a Kedi. An intersexual creature from legend that is the only creature in the world who is whole.
I also liked how Lam described Micah’s confusion about his feelings for both Aenea, his female aerialist partner, and Drystan, the white clown. Micah kept asking himself “Do I like Aenea as a boy or as a girl?” Eventually he decided it didn’t matter and just lets his emotions take over. Despite being in love with Aenea, Micah is still too afraid to tell her about his secret – that he is a Kedi – for fear she will be disgusted with him and reject him, like someone from Gene’s past did recently. At the end of the book Micah’s secret is revealed! But you’ll have to read the book to find out how both Aenea and Drystan react. #troll
I gave Pantomime 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads because of the unique and interesting premise and characters. Would have taken half a star from the overall score if i could have due to the slow pace and sometimes confusing order of events.
Writing this review has been difficult because I’m not sure which pronoun to use for Gene/Micah. Gene is the female, but Micah is the male. I’m not sure which gender neutral pronouns to use. Further research is required.