Review: Pantomime, Laura Lam

01 Jan

15797050“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.”

Another YA read, which isn’t like me, but Strange Chemistry hooked me in with Broken and I wanted to see if all their titles were as original. This one certainly scores high for originality, even though initially you’re going to think it’s just a poor imitation of The Night Circus. And this was the problem for me, if you’ve read The Night Circus you’re not going to be able to help but compare it, and when you compare it it comes out a clear loser. It’s worth persevering though because Pantomime has one of the most unexpected twists I’ve ever come across, and I think it’s a matter of genius that it’s so well hidden from the blurbs because it’s so, so refreshing to encounter a genuine surprise like that in a novel. The thing is though, I chatted to a few people about this one, people who would never read YA and begged me to reveal the twist, and their reactions were all exactly the same, they all went “Oh, errrr, that’s weird. Hmm, not sure I’d fancy reading that.” Which makes me wonder if hiding it so well is clever or just sneaky. Or, I suppose, clever on two levels. But either way, it’s impressively done.

Even though this one scores full marks for the surprise factor, and is nicely written, it didn’t really work for me. I found the world-building to be frustratingly vague, and the ending was hugely unsatisfactory. One of those where you reach the end and then let out a genuine “Garrghh, bloody hell!” in annoyance.

Lam clearly has a wondrous imagination and a nice way with words, and this is definitely not your average teen novel. From the acknowledgements she’s certainly got a lot of friends in the Angry Robot world too. If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, and don’t mind something quick and light, like a little snack between meals, go for it. But if you like your Fantasy to be involved, detailed and complete, this one isn’t for you.

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Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Uncategorized


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