First off, this review isn't going to be a full review. There is a big secret within the pages of Pantomime - a very big secret - and both Laura Lam and the publishers, Strange Chemistry, want the secret to stay well under wraps until Pantomime is released. To talk about it would be to spoil a major part of this book, but it's something I want to talk about. So, with Strange Chemistry's permission, I am writing a mini-esque review now (it might not be that mini), and my full review after publication. But now, on with this review!
Pantomime is absolutely amazing! It's a fantastic character driven fantasy, that will draw you in from the very first page and have you caring deeply about it's brilliant main characters, Gene and Micah.
When I asked her on Twitter about the genre of Pantomime, Lam said, "I've been calling it gaslight fantasy, since it's sort of steampunk without the steam." I'm going to describe the genre based on my experience of reading fantasy. I haven't read any steampunk, it's definitely not dystopia or urban fantasy, so for me, that leaves high fantasy. Except, it only just fits into my idea of high fantasy; an imagined world that feels historical, with magical people and creatures. This Pantomime has - the very different way of living, the magic in the chimaera and the Alders - but it doesn't have so much of the politics or any of the epic battles that most high fantasies I've read I have, or at least not in this book. But the fantasy elements of the story - the magic, the chimaera and the Alders - are not a massive part of this story. Pantomime is very much about the characters, and so feels more like a historical about historical teenagers, though I have a feeling that the fantasy elements will play a much bigger part in future books.
So on to Gene and Micah. Gene is the teenage daughter in a noble family; she's expected to go to balls and wear beautiful dresses, to enjoy embroidery and high tea, but she doesn't. It's just not her. Micah is a teenage runaway who has joined the circus in order to find his own way in life. For both characters, Pantomime is very much about being true to yourself, and working out just exactly who that is. It's about fighting against being pigeon-holed - especially when you, a square peg, are being forced into a round hole. These characters are brilliant, and they're unlike any other characters I've read before. You can't help but fall in love with each of them in turn, and want so badly for them to be accepted for who they are, rather than being made to do what is expected of them. Your heart goes out to each of them; there are moments where I was so disturbed by the way they were treated, and moments when my heart just broke over the crappy choices they had in front of them. These are characters with terribly hard lives; lives where only more difficulty lies ahead.
As I said, I feel the fantasy elements will play a much bigger part in the next books. Which means the questions you have relating to our characters and the fantasy elements aren't all answered. In any other book, this would be quite frustrating, but I'm so invested in the lives of the Micah and Gene, in the people they are, that I almost don't care that I have unanswered questions, because the characters - who have found a permanent home in my heart - are much more important than the questions I have.
Pantomime is not only an amazing story, but an important one. You're not wowed because of the world building, the mythology behind the chimaera and the Alders, or the cliffhanger ending - which are all incredible - but by the truly beautiful, enthralling people we find in Micah and Gene. There's is a story that needs to be told, and that everyone should read. A completely eye-opening, enthralling debut, and I can't thank Lam enough for writing it. Another book to add to the favourites list.
Thank you to Strange Chemistry for the ARC.
- Started reading
- 20 October, 2012: Finished reading
- 20 October, 2012: Reviewed