SERIES: Micah Grey, #1
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: YA, Fantasy
REPRESENTATION: Intersex Bisexual MC, Bisexual Side Character
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Domestic Abuse, interphobia
Gene’s life resembles a debutante’s dream. Yet she hides a secret that would see her shunned by the nobility. Gene is both male and female. Then she displays unwanted magical abilities – last seen in mysterious beings from an almost-forgotten age. Matters escalate further when her parents plan a devastating betrayal, so she flees home, dressed as a boy.
The city beyond contains glowing glass relics from a lost civilization. They call to her, but she wants freedom not mysteries. So, reinvented as ‘Micah Grey’, Gene joins the circus. As an aerialist, she discovers the joy of flight – but the circus has a dark side. She’s also plagued by visions foretelling danger. A storm is howling in from the past, but will she heed its roar?
First off, I just want to mention something that’s not really to do with the book itself, but probably more to do with the marketing department. Looking at Goodreads it seems like at some point the blurb on the back of the book for the US version and for the Goodreads summary have been updated. My version (UK paperback) seems to still have an older version. My copy describes the plot in a totally different way, and I think that affected my reading of the first few chapters. My book reads “Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinolines, 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”. This meant I read the first few alternating chapters as a dual POV, rather than as flashback. This made the start feel a little clunky and a little confusing. I think, if my book had had the current summary I would have got into the swing of Pantomime much faster.
That aside, once I figured out that the two POVs were actually the same person I really enjoyed Pantomime. I loved the setting, world-building and the scenery. The circus itself is magical and vibrant and there’s so much going on. But I also loved some of the other places we saw such as Iphigenia’s high society ball, or newly runaway Micah at the Sicion marketplace — which just sounded absolute glorious! The marketplace covers ten floors and each floor has its own foods and goods for sale which — my gosh — I would visit in a heartbeat. There’s all sorts of interesting world-building throughout, lots of different artefacts and magical devices from a bygone era which hopefully will be delved into in the sequel.
The ending completely surprised me. I suspected Micah’s past was going to come back to haunt them, but I didn’t expect the balls-to-the-wall, burning-bridges type ending that Lam wrote. I was a little sad about the character that died, I thought they had so much potential, and I’d have really like to see the three of them run off together, but it does sound like there’s some interesting stuff set up for the sequel, which I’m looking forward to reading.