By Laura Lam
Available now from Strange Chemistry (Angry Robot)
Micah Grey runs away from his life as a privileged aristocrat and joins R.H. Ragona's Circus of Magic. He wants the chance to discover who he is, rather than who his parents expect him to be, especially after learning something rather unexpected about his past and unwelcome about his future right before running.
He doesn't fit into the circus immediately. He might be an outsider and an outcast, but he has to endure the other performers' hazing in order to prove it. He must work hard at grunt work and train to be an aerialist. He starts a relationship with Aenea Harper, one of the circus's experienced aerialists, and feels a strange attraction to Drystan, the circus's head clown. But it's difficult for Micah to keep his secrets and gain the trust of the performers.
PANTOMIME is also the story of Iphigenia Laurus, who wants to be called Gene, though only her brother bothers. She's old enough to make her debut, but she's not interested in courting and being a lady. She'd rather climb trees and hang with her brother's friends, just like she did as a little kid. She chafes under society's expectations and lives in fear of being married off to some dolt, because a clever man would discover her secrets rather quickly.
The fantasy elements of PANTOMIME are subtle. Most of Ellada's magic is relics, rare and losing power. But not all magic is gone. Micah might have a connection to those vanished Civilizations, though he's often too busy trying to conceal it than to bother trying to discover how.
I rather enjoyed PANTOMIME and its examination of class, society, and gender combined with the classic stories of a boy running away to join the circus and a girl avoiding an unpleasant marriage. Some of the story's reveals are obvious, but other twists are very surprising. And it all builds to a sudden, violent conclusion. PANTOMIME is only the beginning of the story. It's a lovely, quiet story but I expect the sequel will be more explosive, given everything that happens.
I recommend PANTOMIME for fantasy fans looking for something slightly offbeat and full of subtle magics, as well as for people looking for something to follow the bestselling THE NIGHT CIRCUS. It's a magical, romantic tale and I think Laura Lam is an author to watch.