Thursday, 18 December 2014

Pantomime by Laura Lam

Pantomime (2013) (Strange Chemistry)
Laura Lam
Grade: B-
Genre: young adult / fantasy
Source: own
Pantomime: (1) Pantomime
Young adult RBC 2014: A book with a lion, a witch or a wardrobe 

Iphigenia Laurus – or Gene, to anyone who will listen – is the only daughter of a noble family. Her brother is her best friend, but her mother, while she has Gene’s best interests at heart, can be unbearably coddling. Born ‘different’, Gene’s very self is her greatest secret and given her social station, she’s destined to a life of corsets, petticoats and repressing her preferences for shedding her dresses and climbing trees and scaffolding …

Young Micah Grey is the newest member of R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic – the greatest collection of performers, freaks and magic tricks to ever tour Ellada. Unable to hide his gentle breeding, runaway Micah will have to put up with the hazing, dirty jobs and unpleasant tasks if he’s going to survive this nomadic life. But his family has hired a Shadow to track down his whereabouts and so Micah will have to up his game if he’s to stand a chance at sticking with this lifestyle …

I received this title via NetGalley a shockingly long time ago. I saw the physical book in Waterstones a while ago and bought it for the purpose of reading for review, as I’d heard a few things about it – including a member of Waterstones staff telling me that I’d made a good choice. Also a contributing factor to my purchasing decision was the beautiful cover, evoking feelings of intrigue and mystery.

I felt this was a purposely confusing book, and I didn’t like that feeling. Not only was it just plain annoying, but it made for disjointed reading and it took a while to get pulled into the story. This was a classic case of an unreliable narrator (which, as regular readers will know, I dislike generally) and if the deception hadn’t been revealed so early on, I would have likely been kept in the dark for a lot longer. Circus life was entertaining to watch unfold (not nearly as exciting as it appears on the surface, with a lot of drudge and hard work) and the primary and secondary characters were fleshed out and intriguing with their own stories to tell. Laura Lam managed to create a twisted and interesting society, but there needed to be more history to tell a complete story, that doesn’t leave the reader confused and like they’ve missed a page of the action.

Would I read book two, Shadowplay? Pantomime was left on a pretty good cliffhanger, but I’m not anywhere near hooked enough. This was an okay book from a tiny publishing house, but the Strange Chemistry imprint has since closed down and it is sad to see that they didn’t manage to carve out their own niche in an admittedly crowded market that is only getting more packed every year. An overall interesting read that I’ll remember for its strange mix of characters, settings and history, but probably won’t make a re-read.

Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.

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