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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerising and beautiful fantasy
When the cover was first revealed, my first impression was that it was gorgeous and intriguing. It wasn't until after I finished the book that I realised how appropriate the cover is. With a finger on the lips, like a modern day Mona Lisa, the cover has a secret. And when you discover the secret within the beautifully crafted Pantomime, boy, is it a good one...
Published 14 months ago by Daphne (Winged Reviews)

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't think I'd like it - did
[EDIT I've been able to get my excitable paws on an ARC of Pantomime's Sequel Shadowplay which is out in January. My review can be found at [...] but please be aware it contains spoilers for Pantomime]

I'm not Pantomime's audience. I'm in my thirties. That's so old, the closest things we had to YA as teenagers were Sweet Valley High and the Point Horror books...
Published 5 months ago by Theo


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerising and beautiful fantasy, 7 Feb 2013
This review is from: Pantomime (Micah Grey) (Paperback)
When the cover was first revealed, my first impression was that it was gorgeous and intriguing. It wasn't until after I finished the book that I realised how appropriate the cover is. With a finger on the lips, like a modern day Mona Lisa, the cover has a secret. And when you discover the secret within the beautifully crafted Pantomime, boy, is it a good one.

The unfortunately named Iphegenia Laurus is the daughter of a noble family in Ellada. As a lady, she is required to learn to sew and dance and find herself a suitor, but she's more comfortable playing with her brother and his friends outdoors. Then we have Micah Grey, a runaway with no direction who finds himself watching the aerialists at R. H. Ragona's Circus of Magic and decides to join the circus. Their stories were charming and heart-breaking as they both struggled to find where they fit in.

In fact, this book had me both mesmerised and perplexed to start and I would definitely wish that same feeling on anyone reading this book, so I won't go into any more detail on the story. You don't have to wait until the end to discover the secret, but it's equally a treat watching the characters in the book unravel it for themselves.

The fantasy world of Ellada is described by Lam as `gaslight`. It has a society and class structures reminiscent of the Victorian era, and also has unexplained advancements in the form of Vestige, which are rare mechanical relics that run on magic. The world is also filled with mysterious blue Penglass domes that surround the cities-beautiful and bulletproof, they protect but no one knows what they contain. I loved the little tastes into the fascinating world of Ellada and I look forward to learning more about its history and mythology in the subsequent books.

Equally as fascinating is the vivid cast of characters the author has created. Every one of them was unique and memorable, from Gene's strict and proper mother, to the circus oddities who were wildly entertaining. A definite standout for me was Drystan, a fellow runaway and charming circus clown, who has a few secrets of his own (and is, dare I say, subtly sexy). I also really enjoyed Gene's brother, who was the only person to love her wholeheartedly. I wanted to give both of them a big hug for having a great sibling relationship.

I wanted to end on the note that for all the lovely world-building and fantastic characters, Pantomime at its heart is all about acceptance and making your own place in the world. My heart ached through the issues explored in this book, which Lam handled with finesse and respect. It really is a beautiful book to read and has set the bar very high for 2013 debuts indeed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Debut, 4 Feb 2013
This review is from: Pantomime (Micah Grey) (Paperback)
When I read the synopsis for Pantomime I was intrigued and when I saw the cover I was sold. And then I read the book and I fell in love. What an absolutely gorgeous book. It's tough to talk about Pantomime without giving spoilers. Pantomime has a secret and it's a big one and once it's revealed the scope of the entire narrative changes. It's a powerful narrative, filled with fabulous characters and a great plot.

The characters inhabiting Pantomime are amazing. Both its protagonists, Gene and Micah, are trying to figure out who they are and what they want out of life. Lam explores their desires, uncertainties and secrets in depth and with a deftness that exposes both their fragility and their strength in equal measure. I loved the characters Micah encounters at the circus, from his aerialist teacher Aenea to the kind clown Drystan - and yes, thank god not all clowns in this book were scary, otherwise I couldn't have gone on. The first few minutes of It scarred me for life at age nine - sad Frit and the interesting collection of freaks who turn out to be more human in most cases than normal humans. The interactions between the various circus people are funny and lovely and sad. The way they treated Micah when he arrived, the tricks and the hazing, was perhaps rather cruel and cold, but it also seemed a form of self-protection; if Micah could be scared off by their hazing, then he'd not hurt them by leaving once they'd come to care for him and made them part of their `family'. In this manner there are layers upon layers in everyone's actions and behaviour, which get more exposed at each twist in the narrative.

If I can't really talk about the characters in detail without giving the game away, then let me talk about the setting, because it was luscious. Set in a Victorian-ish society, but one where at times it seemed that at one point there was some advanced technologies - bits of which still remain - at times I wondered whether this was a very far-future post-apocalyptic Earth or a secondary world. The world was lush and detailed, overlaid with a sepia-tinge. Ellada and its neighbours are riven with Vestige, both in the form of Penglass and in the form of artefacts, such as the weather machine used at the circus and the clockwork woman's head Micah and Aenea see at the Museum of Mechanical Antiquities in Imachara. The translucent blue Penglass and the mystery of the globes' contents and the mysterious Vestige artefacts that seem, but aren't quite like familiar technology.

The structure of the narrative was very well-crafted. The story is braided together from two story lines, the one set in the spring, the other in the summer, until they both flow into autumn and beyond. These seasons echo the feel of the novel, bright and hopeful in spring, the glory days of summer, and the abrupt turning of the weather in autumn. The first person viewpoints both limit what the reader knows and give us access to our protagonists deepest emotions and thoughts, though this doesn't prevent Lam from letting them keep secrets from us. The prose and dialogue are well-paced, snappy and sometimes almost poetic. I enjoyed the writing style; it reads easily and is an interesting blend between modernity and an old-fashioned gloss.

Pantomime is a stunning debut and would have easily made my top ten for 2012 if it hadn't been a 2013 title. As it is, it is the first 2013 book I've read and those coming behind have a tough act to follow. Laura Lam deals with some highly sensitive issues in a respectful and deft manner. Pantomime is a story of self-discovery and acceptance and shows the journey two very different and extraordinary individuals have to take to achieve it. There is no way for me to explain how wonderful this book is without ruining the reading experience for you. So just trust me, even if you normally don't read YA, read Pantomime once it comes out in February; you won't regret it. My only regret is that I'll have to wait till then to openly discuss its awesome plot twists. And wait even longer to find out what's next.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!, 14 Feb 2013
This review is from: Pantomime (Micah Grey) (Paperback)
*E-book provided by Net Galley*

This is the first review that I have had difficulty writing so far. I'm not entirely sure what it was about this book which put me off giving it the entire 5* rating because I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'd say also that I enjoyed this book from the point of view of a critical reader rather than just losing myself within the pages of the novel - one of my first instincts was to recommend it to a lecturer who studies Queer Theory and Transgender Studies. Although this may have come from the fact that I've not long completed an essay on Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters, I still think this would make a really good text to study through the lens of Queer/ Transgender Studies and also by applying Freud's theory of the Uncanny.

ANYWAY, enough of the critical side of things. Time to talk about the actual book. The tale is situated in a Steampunkesque, Gothic setting of the 'greatest circus of Ellada', Ragona's Circus of Magic. It follows the trials and tribulations of what at first glance appears to be two characters, that of Micah Grey and Iphigenia Laurus - otherwise known as Gene. The novel switches between two narratives, two narratives that we eventually piece together as that of the same person but with one in the form of flashbacks and the other as the present moment. Through the flashbacks, Lam displays to us the issues that Gene has growing up as a transgendered child within bourgeois surroundings. The goals of her parents are to marry her off to someone of an equal or higher class standing. With this narrow minded goal in sight, Gene is forced to hide her true identity as a transsexual in order to appear attractive to the opposite sex. This impact is catastrophic on the family as Gene is reluctant to embrace the what is considered feminine activities such as sewing, and is much more comfortable in befriending males and participating in male activities e.g. climbing.

I don't want to reveal too much, but there is an event which occurs with one of her close male friends which puts her hiding of her true identity at risk. Following this, she overhears her parents discussing her body and how at the next meeting with a doctor, they will be able to take a much more drastic action in 'curing' her of her transsexualism. This overhearing leads to her confiding in her brother and running away from home, disguised as a male. It is in this attire that she transforms herself into the figure of Micah Grey - one that we are not immediately aware of as different people - and makes it her goal to join and settle into the circus. Despite embracing the other side of her identity, she is still forced to hide what she truly is, even from the woman she eventually falls in love with, the aerialist Aenea. The scenes which situate within the circus are the most entertaining sections of the novel as we are unsure of the true agendas of the other members due to the conflicting attitudes of the Cook for instance, and the various figures which make Micah's life incredibly difficult for the first few weeks.

Despite Micah's troubles, she finally settles into the circus life and becomes an aerialist alongside Aenea. I really enjoyed this book. The whirlwind romance which develops between Micah and Aenea was amazing to read, alongside the awkwardness of the seeming advances made by one of the clowns, Drystan. The events which develop throughout keep you on the edge of your toes and wanting more. Laura Lam writes beautifully and creates an entirely original world of which I fell in love with. I felt that she dealt sensitively with the issues of transgender and the conflicts which arise - it was great to finally get a chance to read another piece of literature which deals with these issues. It isn't an area which is covered massively. the novel contains elements of the fantastic, with the mention of The Vestige, the Chimaera, the Penglass and also includes gods such as 'Kedi' - an all powerful god which is both male and female. The importance of these weren't completely developed within the book - this is probably what prevented me giving it the 5* rating - and I am eagerly awaiting Lam's next book to see how she develops these mystical elements.

As a book filled with twists and turns, I couldn't help but flick through the book eagerly, craving more of the story. The book itself ends on a cliffhanger - something I find incredibly frustrating but also love. It's a shame that the next book won't be ready until 2014, it seems such a long way away at the moment! Despite it containing a love triangle of sorts - something I usually loathe - I was eager to find out what would happen between them. Things do not run smoothly but I'm not going to share what happens and spoil the feelings of shock which will come when you guys read the book! I loved this book and am really looking forward to the next one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!, 6 Feb 2013
This review is from: Pantomime (Micah Grey) (Paperback)
Pantomime was one of those books that instantly interested me. The plot synopsis sounded amazing and something completely different and exciting compared to everything else I have been reading recently.

The book begins with young Micah Grey trying to join the circus. The setting is completely magical and mesmerising, especially in the descriptions about what goes on under the big top. The world of the circus is initially what got me hooked to Pantomime, after liking The Night Circus, although these books are very different. The actual world that Laura Lam has created is very different from our own, with cities being dissimilar to each other and having a whole range of characters living there. The ways of life in each city is different and in the circus, are people from all over, giving us an eclectic mix of characters.

Although the circus setting and world created were fantastic, the protagonist was even better. As a young runaway, Micah is trying to find a place in the world. For some of the book, the chapters alternate between circus life and where Micah came from. The alternating chapters make it possible to really realise the situation that Micah is in and why the initial need to run away was there. I really loved Micah as a character as there was so much to relate to.

Pantomime has a massive twist which makes writing a review quite difficult. One wrong word could give away the whole story and this is a twist that you are definitely going to want to discover for yourself. This massive twist is what sets this book apart from other young adult novels and what makes it so unique and exciting. Laura Lam has found a gap in the young adult market and filled it perfectly, showing that authors can take risks and people will love them even more for it.

This is one of those books which keeps you thinking about it for hours, or more like days, after you finish reading it. It was also a book that I instantly wanted to read again, which is something I haven't felt for such a long time now. I seriously cannot get enough of this book and if there is one young adult book you're going to buy this year, this should be it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave and unique, 6 Feb 2013
By 
Curiosity Killed The Bookworm (Dorset, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Pantomime (Micah Grey) (Paperback)
Micah has a secret. He didn't run away to join the circus but when he finds himself stood inside the big tent, he knows that's what he wants to do. He has already left everything he knew behind and cannot go back. On the flip-side, Gene is the daughter of a noble family, destined to be paraded at debutante balls and married off to a deserving suitor. She would much rather be climbing trees with the boys than dancing but her mother is determined for her to be a nice normal girl.

The world encased within Pantomime is not far removed from the heyday of the circus in the real world. The glamour, glitz and seduction of the big tent is there; an attraction that would not fail to pull crowds at any city or town. The freak show, with a few exceptions, would not be out of place in any 19th century sideshow. The atmosphere of R.H. Ragona's Circus of Magic is everything that I have been missing in other circus reads of late. Because I really do love a book set in the circus.

It is however a fantasy novel, set in Ellada. The world is reminiscent of steampunk without any overt characteristics. It has elements of both the past, with class structure and society of the past, and the future, where artefacts of a world lost litter the pages. The purpose of the Plenglass domes is unknown to the inhabitants and they are treated with a certain fear and respect. The Vestige is the name given to artefacts which move by magic, but the magic is in short supply. There's a bit of me that wondered if the magic was electricity or if this was just an analogy. I do get the feeling that the fantasy element will play a bigger part in the sequel as this was all about Micah and Gene.

Pantomime is a difficult book to review without revealing the secret. It didn't take me long to have my suspicions; the split timeline gives enough hints and the environment it is set in allows the brain to wander there. Fortunately, you don't need to wait until the end and the majority of the story revolves around if it will be revealed to other characters and what their reactions may be. It's something that will shock some readers but it's not used gratuitously; it's all about acceptance.

It's a brave book and one that deserves to be read by a wide audience. I hope it will readjust some people's prejudices; to make them stop and think that we are all human beings with feelings and some things we just can't help. It's a refreshing take on running away to join the circus...and other things that I really can't tell you about.

Review copy provided by publisher.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique, Challenging and worthwhile., 6 Feb 2013
By 
Richard D. Findlay "Book Hound" (Aberdeen, Scotland.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Pantomime (Micah Grey) (Paperback)
This is a very unusual YA book - it tackles some often taboo subject matter head on. What it is not, is a fantasy-by-numbers story. It is a very carefully thought out tale, with an array of interesting and three dimensional characters.
Stylistically, Lam is a very considered writer, and her story is delivered with grace and elegance. Some of her phrasing is pure poetry, and the descriptions of the world she creates give a very visual depiction; it's easy to visualise the setting of her novel.
If you like interesting and creative stories, this is one for you. It's advertised as YA, but I think it is suitable for all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different, Brave & Very Interesting., 1 Jan 2014
By 
JennyD (Manchester, Uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pantomime (Micah Grey) (Paperback)
Pantomime tells the story of Gene, an inter-sex bisexual character who upon discovering her parents lies & plans runs away from home and joins a circus. At first the outsider, Gene has to deal with cruel jokes and the worst jobs before proving that she is an invaluable member of the circus. She makes friends & falls in love all the while keeping her inter-sex identity a secret. Things are complicated however because Gene has an mysterious connection to old technology/inventions that were created by an old race. Plus her parents are looking for her and have hired someone to whisk her away from the circus, the place she now happily calls home.
I refer to Gene as 'her' as she was raised female but once at the circus Gene lives as a boy and this issue of gender identity and sexuality (Gene is attracted to both a male & female at the circus) is what really makes this novel so interesting and refreshing. It really makes you think of identity and just what we define as 'male' or 'female' and 'man' and 'woman'. I especially liked the bisexual element because its just so rare that you read about a character who appreciates both men and women and I think it was a very brave decision for the author to incorporate this into her work. This is definitely the first time I have read about an inter-sex character and I thought it was both interesting & educational and again this is a topic not usually dealt with but which here is treated with such care and understanding that you are left greatly admiring the author. The story is strong and there are questions left unanswered at the novel's end which just make you want to carry on and read book two. Gene is a great character and this novel is a very strong start to a series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When's the sequel?, 24 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Pantomime (Micah Grey) (Paperback)
Really enjoyed the book and the unique story world that has been created, just wish it hadn't ended when it did. There are so many questions left unanswered. I hope the next book deals more with Penglass and the Alder. That said, Micah Grey is a very interesting character, haven't read any books with someone like it before, and I'm totally rooting for him despite what he's been through so far. I think I know who Drystan turns out to be, but will have to be patient (at least I hope we'll find out in the next book, there's only so many unanswered mysteries I can take!). I don't want to give away spoilers, so I'll just say that I highly recommend reading the book, but if you're not good with cliffhanger endings maybe wait until the second book is out as well and read them back-to-back.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, intriguing fantasy with a great central character, 23 Feb 2013
By 
S Cooke "skittledog" (Ayrshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Pantomime (Micah Grey) (Paperback)
As other reviewers have said, it's hard to review this book without spoiling a rather nice little twist which lifts it up a level in terms of both storytelling and characterisation, but I shall do my best.

Micah Grey, the main protagonist, is an appealing character with a nice blend of uncertainty over who he is and subtle confidence running underneath - he may not think he knows who he is, but he readily acts on his opinions and doesn't struggle to interact with others in the way that teen-heroes-learning-about-the-big-bad-world often do. I found that quite appealing, and definitely look forward to seeing who he grows up to be. I also felt the structure of the book worked well, keeping me guessing long after I should have spotted a few things for myself, and offering some variety from the tales of circus life which I could easily have found a bit samey after a while. The vaguely steampunk-y, historically influenced fantasy world that the book inhabits also felt very real and well lived in, and left me generally quite happy picturing the various places the story went.

If I have one criticism, it's that the whole book feels a little too much like the start of another book, not a complete story in itself. Obviously that's partially true of all first books in any series, but usually that is mostly hidden from the reader until the end of the book, and even if you know it objectively you get sucked into whatever the reasonably contained story of the first book is. Only at the end should you mentally step back and think 'well obviously now yes he has to set off on his hero's quest or whatever.' I just felt that this story, particularly in the second half of the book, lacked an immediate drive and purpose which would have stopped me noticing that the bigger questions of the setting and Micah's destiny were still hanging around unanswered.

But... that really is a fairly minor criticism compared to my enjoyment of other aspects of the book, and it certainly won't stop me being eager to read the sequel - in fact it will obviously have the opposite effect. Generally speaking, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and am very intrigued as to where the story will go next.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mysterious and Intriguing, 23 Feb 2013
By 
Michelle Moore (Dartford, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pantomime (Micah Grey) (Paperback)
Pantomime is published by Strange Chemistry, a YA imprint, but I would definitely class it as `cross-over', as there's plenty for all ages.

In fact, this is a book which is generally hard to place within a genre, although I would imagine the sci fi element may become more prominent in subsequent books. It's set in a world which is not our own, but very similar. It has a Victorian feel to it, but also gives the impression of being set in a future somewhere. The main setting is a travelling circus, complete with trapeze artists, clowns, and a freak show.

Most importantly this book is about the characters. Iphigenia - or Gene, as she prefers, is the daughter of a noble family, who's much happier being a tomboy. She also has a secret which threatens to ruin her future. Micah is a runaway who joins the circus as a way to escape. Both are going through a journey, trying to understand just who they are, and find acceptance.

The surrounding characters are also fascinating and well written, with secrets of their own. These people all find their way into your mind and heart, and stay with you long after the book is finished. I've read some excellent YA books this year, but this one may just be my favourite. It's hard to believe that it's a debut book - I savoured every moment, and am impatient for the next book, to discover what else is awaiting in this rich world.

(Reviewed Dec last year, early review copy from NetGalley)
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Pantomime (Micah Grey)
Pantomime (Micah Grey) by Laura Lam (Paperback - 7 Feb 2013)
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