Pantomime is a book I picked up on a whim from Netgalley. It looked kind of interesting and I was feeling like a good fantasy/YA novel after finishing some rather heavy other reading. It looked right up my alley.
Pantomime tells the story of two characters, Iphigenia "Gene" Laurus, a nobleman's daughter who hates life in skirts and uptight manners and Micah Grey, a runaway who joins the circus as an aerialist's apprentice. Both have a secret they're dying to keep and an interesting connection to their world that even they aren't aware of yet.
I absolutely adored Pantomime. Not only did it create an interesting world that is once both recognizable and foreign to the reader but I could honestly say that I had no earthly idea what was going to happen next. The world of R. H. Ragona's Circus of Magic was intricately woven, each character feeling real and knowable. I always think books set in circuses are interesting and this one, by also having fantasy involved, was definitely a new and exciting take on the idea.
Mostly, though, I was incredibly excited by and interested in the way Lam plays with gender. In this book, no character is defined by gender but gender becomes fluid, as Micah and Gene explore different aspects of their character and try to determine just what they want to be. I really, really enjoyed this as I've seen a few characters similar to Micah and Gene in recent books that I don't think managed to use this malleable gender idea to the same degree. In this, it doesn't seem weird or foreign or odd but just a natural instinct to explore and create. I absolutely loved this and wish more books would explore this idea as Lam has, without prejudice but with a simple curiosity.
I can honestly say that, as I was reading, I had no idea where the book was going and in fact, it surprised me many a time. There is one instance roughly halfway through the book where you realize something about Micah and Gene where, although I had all the clues to put it together, I never actually caught on until that moment. I remember I was reading it on the train and genuinely went "…ooooooh!" I can't remember the last time I was that surprised by a reveal. I'm honestly very impressed. It definitely added to my opinion of the book.
I really enjoyed Pantomime and look forward to the next book in the series because, the way the book ended, there has to be another coming. I want to know more about Gene, more about Drystan (who I love!) and see what all of this Penglass nonsense is about. More please, Miss Lam!!
Pantomime comes out in February 2013 from Strange Chemistry.