I’m totally conflicted about my feelings for Pantomime. At first it reminded me too much of The Night Circus, which I didn’t like. It wasn’t just the circus theme that was similar, but the alternating between past and present and extremely slow pacing. However, the plots are completely different, and once things started getting going I enjoyed it much more. This is he second book I’ve read this month where the protagonist repeatedly brings up the fact that there’s something different about them, but refuses to say “what” they are until a quarter or more into the story. It’s extremely annoying rather than intriguing, and I didn’t see this point of it in Pantomime since it’s super obvious what Micha’s medical condition is. Not the specifics, which we get later, but the general idea is clear early on.
If you think the secret is going to be a spoiler, you should stop reading this review, since I’m going to talk about in the next paragraph. So STOP reading now if you don’t want to be “spoiled” but like I said it’s revealed fairly early so…
I’ve never read about an intersex character before, so I was definitely interested in learning more about Micha/Gene. Gene has had to hide her “condition” from everyone for fear of being called a monster, but one day she up and leaves, and joins the circus. She feels like a freak, so why not run away to be with more freaks? Once she gets there’s though, she’s Micha, a boy, which is easy for her to pull off due to having a fairly boyish figure.
I also really enjoyed Micha’s struggle with her sexuality. Would she be dating as a boy, a girl, both, or neither? Did that really matter? Is she attracted to boys, girls, or both? Does she have to choose one? It was all very confusing for her, but it was nice watching her discover who she was and who she wanted to be with. I do think that the author handled these topics very respectfully.
I also really liked the world. It’s a fantasy realm, but it’s very much like our Victorian era, especially in the fashion and social etiquette. However, there’s magic and Chimaera! At the beginning of each chapter there’s little excerpts from different texts that are about the circus, ancient magic, social lessons, etc. I’m almost always a fan of little tidbits like this, so I definitely enjoyed that touch to the world building.
The plot isn’t really much of a plot at all. Once we know “what” Micha is, the only thing left is whether or not he’s going to get caught and dragged back home. I desperately hoping not, since Gene’s parents are pretty awful and selfish people, and she deserves so much more!
In the end, I liked Pantomime but it failed to wow me. I absolutely LOVED the concept and the themes presented, but the lack of an interesting plot and the slow pacing stopped me from loving it overall. It’s most definitely an amazingly unique story though, so I would recommend it simply based on that. I’m just wondering if this was the first book in a series or not. The ending is quite open for a sequel, but it could also be seen as a standalone. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Read more of my reviews at Pinkindle Reads & Reviews.