Pantomime by Laura Lam: Review

Pantomime by Laura Lam

Paperback, US, 392 pages
Expected publication: February 5th 2013 by Strange Chemistry

My copy: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary:

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.


Pantomime by Laura Lam is a book with a secret. Whoever made its blurb is a sweet, highly intelligent liar. You need to read the book to find the secret, and trust me when I say that you are going to be surprised. It’s the kind of thing that if I were to just tell you right now, would lead to you saying “WHAT?” with extreme independent eyebrow movement. But Laura Lam manages to work it into the book, into the emotion of the book, in a light, magical way that is exciting and original.

Pantomime is not an exciting book. It’s not the kind of book that will lead to pounding hearts and “OMG, OMG, WHAT JUST HAPPENED, MY HEART BLEEDS” It’s a slow, explorative book. It’s layered and light and dark at the same time. There is magic in it and a different world, but it is not a book that delves deeply into its world. Instead it skims lightly over the surface, promising more to come. It sets up, it confuses, it frustrates at times, but you always know that this is just the superficial stuff that you’re seeing. Laura Lam’s got a lot more to give us.

It’s a book about circuses. I love books about circuses. I loved The Night Circus so much that I still won’t lend my copy to anyone. Pantomime looks at the darker side of circuses though. Like Water for Elephants. There are freaks and a self-important, occasionally cruel circus manager. There is loneliness and difficulty to accept someone new and dreams that can’t be realized. It’s different from The Night Circus in that very fundamental way: the circus is the story in The Night Circus, but in Pantomime, the circus is simply the setting. The characters are the story.

Iphigenia Laurus hates everything about her life: from the ladylike life she’s supposed to lead to her ridiculous name. This girl would rather climb trees than wear a ballgown, but her mother is insistent on finding her a good society husband. But Gene has new things to worry about, secrets old and new are suddenly rearing their heads and she needs to do something before she loses sight of who she herself is. Micah Grey is a boy who becomes an aerialist at the circus. He has his secrets, secrets that may hurt the girl that he’s coming to love, secrets that may mean something to the world he lives in. Gene and Micah have to come to terms with who they are in Pantomime, and with that nasty cliffhanger Laura Lam leaves us with, its sure that they still have a long way to go in the sequel.

This is a book as much about identity and self-discovery as it is about anything else. My only quibble is that it could have had a better execution. While Lam’s writing is fresh and her premise original, it could have been a really exciting book, a really exciting world. Magic makes everything better, but just the right dose of it! Usually I have a problem with authors going overboard and all kinds of deux-ex-machinas happening, but this time it’s so understated it’s barely there. That sense of wonder I was expecting didn’t quite happen with Pantomime. That quirk I was looking for wasn’t there.

But Pantomime is a good read. Most of you will love it, and the pretty cover helps.

3.5 stars from me, and I will be picking up the next installment.


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