Pantomime: Micah Grey, Book 1 (Strange Chemistry) Paperback – February 5, 2013
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"Pantomime by Laura Lam took me to an exotic and detailed world, peopled by characters that I'd love to be friends with...and some I'd never want to cross paths with."
-Robin Hobb, author of the Farseer Trilogy
“Set in a vividly imagined world with wonderful steampunk touches, Pantomimeis a fable-like story as beautifully unique as its main character.”
– Malinda Lo, author of Ash, Huntress, and Adaptation
“Micah is the most wonderful, complex, brave and contemporary teenage hero I’ve read, facing issues of identity and responsibility that will resound with any reader who has felt like an outsider. Pantomime is loving in its detail but hints at so much scope to come, it feels like the set up for an epic sequel. I raced through this book, desperate to know what happens next. ‘Look out behind you’ Robin Hobb…”
- Bryony Pearce, author of Angel’s Fury and winner of the 2012 Leeds Book Award
“Welcome to a world of shills and showmen, fading tech and circus freaks, where nothing and no-one is what it appears. An absorbing, accomplished debut.”
- Elspeth Cooper, author of the Wild Hunt series
“Who hasn’t dreamed off running off and joining the circus? Laura Lam’s Micah does just that, discovering a world of clowns and acrobats, con men and tricksters, corruption and incompetent doctors, and maybe more about himself. I look forward to more from this author.”
- Brian Katcher, author of Almost Perfect and winner of the 2011 Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award
“In PANTOMIME, Laura Lam has created a world which will take your breath away, and characters you will never want to leave. Enchanting.”
- Lou Morgan, author of Blood and Feathers
“A lyrical, stunningly written debut novel, which set my heart racing with every lift of the trapeze. In Micah we have one of the most original – and likeable – protagonists I’ve read in a long time. An author to watch, without a doubt.”
- Amy McCulloch, author of The Oathbreaker’s Shadow
Nominated for the 2014 ALA Rainbow list.
- Grade level : 9 - 12
- Item Weight : 12.8 ounces
- Paperback : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 190884437X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1908844378
- Dimensions : 5.11 x 1.09 x 7.74 inches
- Reading level : 14 and up
- Publisher : Strange Chemistry (February 5, 2013)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,820,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Pantomime refers to a "play" which takes place within a performance of a remarkably ordinary (but not really so ordinary) travelling circus. This circus tours in a strange, alien land called Ellada. Ellada, which has colonized or conquered some of the outer lands, has an ancient history, involving Chimaera, and alien Alder.
Iphigenia Laurus comes from a fairly noble mercantile family. At 16 years of age, she has a secret, known initially only to her parents and her brother. But some secrets mask other secrets. Who is she really, and what is she meant to be?
Into the circus comes Micah Grey, a teen-aged runaway harboring a secret that may make people shun Micah, or worse. While helping to feed the animals and do other chores, Micah also trains with Arik and Aenea to be an aeralist. Micah befriends Drystan the clown while trying to survive the initial days of not-so-kindly hazing by the troupe. And always, there is Micah's fear of the discovery of the secret that could change everything. The Pantomime provides the final key that once again alters Micah's life.
One of the strengths of this story is its depiction of the behind-the-scenes lives and interactions in a circus troupe. Iphigenia and Micah are characters to whom readers can relate, in all their anguish, fear, hopes and needs. A circus, consisting of those who live in some part outside society, should be the safest place to be accepted. But everyone, no matter who they are or from whence they come, has needs, fears, hopes, and secrets.
Where will Iphigenia and Mhcah find their safe haven? Will either be able to find contentment in who and what they are?
One little reservation (which does not really spoil the magic of the story) is that its ending seems so much to beg for a sequel. The conclusion feels too unfinished.
Highly recommended, and not just for fans of science fiction.
Laura Lam's Pantomime is a very odd story about life in the circus. Some people might consider this next bit a spoiler so I am going to go ahead and tag it.
******************************* Micah and Gene are the same person. Gene, or Iphigenia as she was christened, was born with both male and female parts. She runs aways to the circus so she can live life as a male and renames herself Micah. *******************************
While we have the stories of Micah and Gene told in alternating chapters, Gene's story is in the past and Micah's story is in the current. The stories continue on until they finally meet and we learn the connection between Gene and Micah. It wasn't hard to see it coming, but it was an interesting twist. I just felt like not much else happened in this book.
While the writing was beautiful and descriptive, it was a little too overly long and flowery. The back stories are filled in and the two timelines finally meet, and just when the book seems to be picking up, it ends. I don't think I will be continuing on to Shadowplay anytime soon, but if you are looking for a historical read with social commentary and a hint of paranormal, this might be the book for you.
Split between the present and the past, Lam entices us into Gene’s life, a girl who feels more like a boy and is determined to be known as Gene rather than her official name of Iphigenia, and later takes on the name Micah in an effort to hide when she runs away from her family. We start the novel as she joins a circus with hopes of someday performing on the trapeze, but for now must act as a simple roustabout while she’s in training. Or should I say ‘he’, as she’s ditched the dresses as she’s always wanted to, bound her chest and cut her hair.
Once in the circus he’s lucky to be taken on by the current aerialists who guide him on how to cope through the general hazing the other members of the circus throw at him. With steampunk elements thrown in, we are introduced along with Micah as to how the circus uses items known as ‘Vestige’, elements from an ancient civilisation that are now few as they run out of residual power that can’t be replaced.
As if hazing and a tough training and work regime aren’t enough, Micah also has to deal with secrets he’s left behind, and secrets he reveals in the circus life. Life doesn’t seem ideal for anyone, and all he meet have a dark past to reveal.
The chapters are artfully constructed, first remaining mostly in his past whilst occasionally showing the present life in the circus, until the circus chapters overtake and only show his past in chapters few and far between. We see why he’s on the run, and why he identifies with being male so strongly, as well as elements that make us wonder if there isn’t something about Micah that could unlock so much about the vestige that could change Ellada itself.
Laura Lam has a wonderful way with words, and manages to capture circus life in a way that reveals both the beauty and the grim at once. While the dark backstories of nearly each and every character could be a little depressing, she somehow weaves hope within, as the characters are still making a future for themselves, or escape one way or another.
Micah is a character like none other I’ve read before. Lam manages to capture gender issues perfectly, with the character unsure of what they want in life and who they want it with, yet finding a home within a circus where others with the same questions and answers have also found themselves.
The plot is hard to describe, as it somehow manages to flow back and forth between present and past timelines, remaining simple yet complex – possibly hard to describe simply because it’s written so well that Lam conveys everything that happens and is felt easily, yet descriptive and emotional.
The biggest draw in this novel is that things such as the Vestige and the mysterious Penglass – a substance that a few buildings in each city is made of – and the mysteriously missing Chimera are only hinted at, or briefly seen. The world is incredibly deep – speaking of wars and people past, with poems and mythos revealed at the start of each chapter – and you know that Lam must have many notebooks of worldbuilding ready and waiting to be revealed.
Top reviews from other countries
I think the most exciting aspect of this book was it's handling of an Intersex character. I adore books that contain LGBT themes and it was especially heart-warming to read the main protagonist, Gene, as androgynous because, especially as Lam explored the tumultuous emotions and relationships that come with that experience so thoroughly. Relating it back to the world-building and plot, I love the idea that in the past, Intersex beings were worshipped as 'complete' humans. It's going to lead the plot in a very interesting direction I'm sure, and perhaps open up some very interesting discussion questions.
Despite loving this book, it's weakest point was probably the ending. It felt a little rushed when compared to the rest of the book, and I was uncomfortable to see Domestic Violence take such a back seat throughout the story, only to be exploited for a 'dramatic ending'. In terms of the 'love triangle', it all felt a little too convenient too and I can only hope that things take a turn for the better in Book Two, which I'm really looking forward to reading. Despite being a little disappointed by the end, this book charmed and wowed me in so many ways that I can't sing it's praises enough, and I look forward to reading the whole series!
I love how unique this novel is, I have had it on my radar for years now but wanted to wait till the new beautiful covers came out. The writing was beautiful the world was enchanting, the characters were lovable, and I adored how the story was told in a non-linear fashion. But I think the thing I love the most above all is that I have no idea what to expect in the future of this series. I'm starting Shadowplay in just a moment and I honestly don't even have an inkling of how the story is going to go, and that gets me so excited.
As always I am a romantic at heart and the romance in this novel was perfect, and not insta love which you find in so many YA novels at the moment but something better something more real that really made me smile. Overall a wonderful book that I would highly recommend if you loved Erin Morgenstern's THE NIGHT CIRCUS.
Pantomime is that splendidly rare gem of a book.
Set in a Victorian-esque fantasy world, the Laurus family hides a secret. Their daughter Gene both male and female. Upon discovering hidden family secrets, Gene reinvents herself as Micha Grey and finds herself wrapped up in the drama and mystery of the Circus. Micha needs to hide any semblance of his past as Gene, but he soon discovers that concealing his identity is a lot more complicated with people involved.
Micha was such a compelling character. I've never read a book with an intersex protagonist, and I think the author does an excellent job of showing that people do not need to be gender conforming. As a reader I truly understood that Micha was both male and female, despite his anatomy not fitting the typical definitions of either.
Although a fantasy novel, Pantomime isn't about magic and is mainly about this fascinating new world Lam has created and the characters it contains. But I do love the hints of there being something more - that there is a possibility of the magic in the myths being true - and I can't wait to see that explored later in the series.
Diversity note: intersex protagonist
Warnings: domestic abuse, rape, murder
I love the stunning world-building here. Lam has created a world in which magic used to exist but seems to have disappeared, leaving only remnants such as the mysterious substance Penglass. Inside this big world, she's also created a fabulous society of circus misfits who are reliant on each other to earn a living but have their own intrigues, quarrels and love affairs. She's populated it with brilliant characters, capable of love, heroism, and cruelty. It's a book which looks at bullying, romance, family, and perhaps most impressively, issues about sexuality that are still rarely tackled and are mainly done so in contemporary books. All of these things have been woven perfectly into the rich tapestry of Lam's fantasy world, and feel every bit as natural to the world and as important, as the fantasy trappings like the Penglass and the Vestige.
Warning though - it should come with a box of tissues - while I cry my eyes out fairly regularly at many contemporary novels, I'm fairly sure that this is either the first or second fantasy ever to have that effect on me.) As if to prove there is no end to her talent, Lam actually manages to give us a cliffhanger ending which I thought worked really well. She tidies up enough of the storyline to give us a proper conclusion, but it still had me desperately wanting the sequel right away. (I'm glad to say sequel Shadowplay definitely didn't disappoint, by the way!)
If it's not clear enough, absolutely massive recommendation. Book 3, Maskerade, is very high on my 'most wanted' list.
(Originally published on www.thebookbag.co.uk)
Reading this reminded me a lot of "Water for Elephants" with a newcomer entering this tight knight "family". Through Micah's eyes we see the highs and lows of this life, but while others in the circus battle their own demons and hide their own secrets, Micah also has much to hide.
When this was first released it was heralded for its break out character. Although who or what Micah is, is a huge part of the plot, this is a story about a person trying to break the social norms thrust upon them and trying to find where they fit into the world. Everyone feels this at one point and that is what is great about this book.
With THAT ending, I now move onto Shadowplay...