Pantomime, by Laura Lam [Micah Grey #1]

  • TITLE: Pantomime (Micah Grey #1)
  • AUTHOR: Laura Lam
  • PUBLISHER: Strange Chemistry
  • PUBLICATION DATE: 7th February 2013 (UK)

Whichever way you approach Laura Lam’s Pantomime, do so expecting to be surprised and drawn into a vast, rich world of lost magic and melancholy history. Even without the enchanting lure of the circus (am I the only one who finds circuses creepy? I’ll get my coat…) to dazzle and amaze, the flavour of Lam’s prose is delicate and delicious enough to do all the bedazzling, all by itself.

Set in a world that mirrors our own, with a strict focus on the English Victorian era, Pantomime invites readers to run away to the circus; to live under the big top and to experience life alongside its inhabitants.

Micah Grey is a young trainee aerialist, fresh to the circus and eager to learn. He hopes that amongst the hustle and bustle of the circus he can lose himself and find himself.

Iphigenia Laurus, a pampered and primped noble lady–if only she would allow such treatment: she prefers to ally herself with her brother and his friends, rather than fill her dowry chest with embroidery–is tired of a confining life, hiding who she is deep inside from those around her. She yearns for freedom and above all else, acceptance.

Within the pages of Pantomime their lives and purposes cross and they come to realise that they are inexorably bound to one another, whatever the cost. Each with their own trials and secrets and with a secret in their blood that might be the answer Ellada has been searching for, Gene and Micah both must tread carefully. The circus is fertile ground in which secrets can grow and take form, becoming far greater than ever imagined.

Pantomime is the kind of book I thought I’d never read because nobody would ever write it. It is a story about acceptance and belonging and about figuring out just who you are, who you can be, and just who you might be if you were only brave enough to take the first step. There is an openness regarding gender and sexuality that many YA fantasy stories lack and it is for that reason alone that Pantomime simply must be read. In many ways, Lam wrote a brave book that turns the mundanity of heteronormativity on its head and the story is all the richer for it.

It is a story that questions, seeks and strives and more YA books should do just the same thing. For all it is a story of acceptance and belonging, it is also a story of fear: the fear or rejection, the fear of choice and the lack of it, and the fear of oneself. Pantomime is a stunning example of how to go against the grain–and keep going no matter what. Its single, resoundingly simple message is: be true to yourself and only yourself.

Naturally this is harder than it sounds and Pantomime explores just that.

To be true to oneself, one must know oneself and that is often the most difficult thing of all, especially in the face of contradictions from within and without and the trails that face us. Effortlessly graceful and deliciously classy, as befitting the era, the setting and the structure of the story, Lam has set a bar for other YA authors to aspire towards.

And I’m not even kidding here. If all writers approached the same issues that Lam neatly and beautifully broaches, the pool of YA fantasy would be all the richer for it and horizons would be vastly broadened.

Pantomime is a gorgeous book that tells a gorgeous story. It’s exciting, rich and wonderful and its characters are expertly crafted. From sibling relationships to tense court relations, to the intimacy of the circus and blossoming attraction, Lam nails every nook and cranny of each and every character and personality.

A complete and stellar success, effortlessly achieving all it set out to accomplish, Pantomime is the YA fantasy novel that will set the standard for all that follows in 2013, getting the year off to an excellent beginning. There is so much to say, so many observations and commentaries that should arise from reading Pantomime that it should be considered as most of the most important YA commentaries on identity and belonging written within the genre. It’s a bold statement, I suppose, but I hold to it: Pantomime is a work of art, a psychological adventure into exploring the self, and a damn fun read to boot.

Utterly captivating and inviting, Pantomime sets the stage for Lam to emerge as a writer to watch.



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