Saturday, 6 April 2013
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 act'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.
I was aware of certain elements of Pantomime before I had a chance to read the book due to some spoilery reviews on other sites around the net (my own fault...curiosity killed the cat and all that jazz). I agree that the blurb does not really describe what happens in the book, but sometimes I do like to be bamboozled. I just hope this was Strange Chemistry's intention, and not a case of trying to make the book more marketable.
I have wanted to read Laura Lam's debut novel, Pantomime, ever since I spotted it on the Strange Chemistry website late last year. When I finally got a copy from the library, I suddenly became afraid that this YA novel would not live up to my expectations, especially after my experience of reading another circus set novel that I had high expectations for, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus.
When I read The Night Circus, I felt that Morgenstern was covering up her lacklustre characters with too many descriptions, forcing me to find her world magical. This isn't the case with Pantomime. Instead of being bombarded with the spectacular, Lam proves that you can evoke the magic and otherness of a circus without detailing all the specifics. Instead she has found a balance between the circus and her mysterious characters, most of whom have ulterior motives that are never quite revealed.
The alternating chapters/time lines of Spring and Summer took some getting used to. However, once all is revealed, the transitions between the two become effortless. Another interesting point is that Pantomime is set so far in the future; we're not talking hundreds of years but thousands, yet the world of Ellada has a strange alternative old timey Victorian vibe. Lam's narrative pulls you along on a journey through this strange world, tugging at your curiosity on every page.
What knocked me out of my Pantomime adoration was the ending - it was so abrupt. I had been going along thinking, wow, a stand alone YA book! And then wallop...this is part of a series. It's not a bad thing, any further expanded information about the history of Ellada and of Micah's ancestry would be fantastic, but I just wish that Pantomime had been more conclusive. Nonetheless, I am still buying myself a copy (I was tempted to never give back the library copy...but that would mean I couldn't get anymore books out) as Laura Lam crafted a completely refreshing and original tale that I would want to read again and again.