Pantomime by Laura Lam

Pantomime (Micah Grey, #1)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.

An intersex teen, Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, raised as the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. After being left with little choice, Gene runs away from home and assumes the new identity of Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets. Micah joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star.

Pantomime by Laura Lam

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Published: February 2013 by Strange Chemistry

Source: My bookshelf

*Updated 2017 Note:

Since I’m a cis reader with a limited perspective, first check out own voices perspectives such as this review on Non-binary characters in YA and this review on the representation.

Thoughts:

Gene takes on the name Micah and adjusts to the harsh life of the circus while searching for a place to belong in Pantomime. I really admired Micah’s daring and perseverance, as the circus is filled with all sorts of personalities. Some of the circus workers are cruel. (There is one particular violent character that comes to mind, so content warnings for alcoholism and a domestic violence related death).

Micah carves a well-earned space among the kind and grounded circus performers. Micah is probably one of my favourite characters ever.

This particular circus is not an ethereal haven but a work-place where marginalised misfits work hard to earn little for the arts/performances of their dreams. I could relate to Micah’s weighing of two paths in regards to dreams and future work. I also loved following Micah’s journey of self-acceptance.

Micah struggles with gender roles while exploring their own dreams and intersex identity. I was so invested in Micah’s character development but I wished that some of Micah’s later flashbacks had been placed a bit earlier in the narrative to improve the pacing of the present narrative.

I loved the layered worldbuilding. For example, one of Micah’s friends notes that gender specific pronouns did not exist in one of the older cultural languages of their world. I am reminded of how early on in the English language, many 18th century writers used ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’ as a gender neutral pronoun. Micah is drawn to masculine activities and appearances but Micah also realistically explores the gender-fluid boundaries of a self, which does not settle on either side of the male/female divide. I liked hearing Micah’s thoughts in first person, which escapes gender-specific pronouns.

On a different world-building note, I can understand why some readers are wary of the possible link between Micah’s intersex identity and the mythological aspects of this world. I interpreted it as a positive identity link for Micah but I’ll need to read the sequel to explore that connection. I enjoyed exploring the mythologies of the different cultures that Micah learns about through the travelling circus.

Pantomime is one of the few stories I’ve read where the protagonist Micah’s attraction to both genders is dived into. Romance is not the main focus of the novel but I liked Micah’s interactions with both Aenea and Drystan. I’m really curious to see where the sequel will take Micah.

Thanks to Nafiza and Yash for helping me push Pantomime up the TBR!

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11 thoughts on “Pantomime by Laura Lam

  1. I’m so glad it’s on your TBR! I’ve just begun to read more stories with queer protagonists this year. Also, the September theme for my friend’s book club was indie LGBTQIA, which gave me the final reason to read Pantomime. Pantomime was sitting on my TBR for a year but I find book clubs are great ways for me to read more broadly.

    I love books because they are best portals for seeing through another person’s eyes and learning with them. When I’m in a contemporary mood, I’ll definitely pick up For Today, I Am A Boy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pantomime sounds wonderful, thanks for putting the book and the author on my radar! I think that while gay protagonists are gaining more representation in the publishing industry, there’s not nearly as much support for the rest of the spectrum. I also heard about The Bone Doll’s Twin recently and it also sounds wonderful!

    By the way, I haven’t been on your blog in a while and I adore the new starry background!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Aentee! I’ve also read reviews where friends were initially confused over the marketing of Pantomime because the original jacket blurb is phrased in a way that makes Gene and Micah seem like they are unrelated characters. Marketing seems like a difficult job because publishers want to reach a wide as audience as possible but I’m definitely for more representation hinted at on book jackets.

      ❤ The Bone Doll's Twin. It's the best kind of coming of age in a dark magical epic fantasy setting.

      I jump between blog backgrounds but I do love the starry ones. (The first one was by an artist known as LedaCreates but I've just switched to a more teal-based night sky theme to match the font colour of the blog. I wish I had your graphic design skills to make something too!)

      Like

  3. I’m so glad you enjoyed this! You know, about the pronoun thing? Indian schools rely (too much) on old British English, which means by the time you’re in seventh grade and have an actually competent English teacher, you have to set about unlearning a lot of old Britishisms– including using “they/them”. Something I’ve never stopped being annoyed about unlearning …
    Anyway, yay to more Laura Lam! If you’re curious she also released some short stories set in the same universe. I haven’t read them yet, but I heard they’re fun. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can see how that would be frustrating! I must have randomly absorbed that particular rule from either a teacher or one of the books I read as a kid. I almost unconsciously used it when I was reaching for a gender neutral pronoun.

      oo I’ll have to look up the short stories. Thanks for the heads up! I also bought the sequel which I shall read after I climb my ARC pile ^^

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This looks so interesting! You’ve been on a roll lately for books I don’t think I ever would have heard of otherwise haha! I’m always down for anything set in a circus with some sort of fantasy or magic realism involved (Night Circus, Conjured to name a couple). But add in all the other things – I mean intersex/gender fluidity/sexual fluidity all in one book?! Basically it’s sounds really interesting and while I’m normally hesitant to read a book that tackles said things bc it can be done SO poorly, I’m all for leaping on board once someone’s vetted it for me haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I absolutely loved the Night Circus! My friend went to a masquerade party in an outfit inspired by the book because she loved it too. Though Pantomime is more of a behind-the-scenes apprentice sort of circus story. I definitely recommend Pantomime if you’re looking for a book that really explores the gender/sex fluidity aspect in a realistic way.

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  5. I definitely failed at reading this for September, but I did get 27 pages through, as I told you, and I think that’s pretty awesome. Seriously, though- what even happened with my reading! Pantomime sounds all the better and more “Romi read me nowwwww” after reading your review, and there are so many elements to it that I’m excited to get to. It’s already beautiful and intriguing and I just can’t wait to get further in and discover the deeper thoughts on identity that you touched on.

    Aaaw, thank you so much for linking me, Glaiza. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Romi! I always think it’s better to draw value from what you read rather the amount of books/pages you read in a month – and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts too!

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