Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Strange Chemistry
UK Release date: 7th February 2013
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review
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. 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 circus’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.
The rich setting for Pantomime encompasses elements of magic, fantasy and historical Victorian period. Ellada has all the finery of the rich upper class, contrasted against the poor and the beggars. Whereas Gene has all the luxuries of the rich, she still suffers from the restrictive traditions and formalities and from the burdens of a mother that wants her to marry well and be like every other girl coming of age.
Then there is the circus; a whole different world in itself. As soon as you start reading Pantomime you are thrown into the Circus of Magic. I loved reading about what circus life is really like behind all the glitz and magic. There were so many different personalities and characters like the 'freaks' and clowns, and whilst I expected them to be like a big family I didn't quite expect the dark and sinister 'hazing' that Micah received when he started there.
The magical element in the story is Vestige and the mysterious Penglass domes. I wasn't really sure what exactly Vestige was, although it had a steampunk feel to it. I'm hoping that the world building and magic is explored in more detail in subsequent books, as there is so much potential for this to develop into something beautifully complex and colourful. Whilst this book focused more on the characters and their development, I would really love to find out more about the different countries and their dwindling magic.
What makes Pantomime different from so many other books out there is the big twist in the story. Actually I think there are two surprises. One I picked up on fairly early into the plot, as there were some little hints floating around. But the other I hadn't quite guessed, although it made sense when I found out. I can't tell you what these twists are, because it would completely spoil the story. But I will say that Pantomime will get you thinking, it will open your mind, and hopefully remind people that no matter what our differences everyone deserves to live their life how they want to, with freedom, equality, and respect. I also really admire Laura Lam for writing a book that dares to pick such a unique and slightly taboo topic and write it with really sensitivity.
Pantomime is a dark, gritty world where all the fun of the fair can turn sinister at any time.