Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Release Date: 7th February 2013
Edition: UK e-book, purchased
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 of the vanished Chimeras 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, a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.
I’ve been hearing amazing things about Pantomime since it was published over a year ago, and I still wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to read it, but I bought it when it was on a Kindle deal to give a go. LGBT Month provided the perfect opportunity; I’m so glad I took it.
Pantomime is set in a fantasy world that feels a lot like an alternate Victoriana with the outfits, the stereotypes and constrictions, the social class hierarchy and the disdain of lower class pursuits such as the circus. Gender roles was a strong theme behind Pantomime - why however, I can’t reveal without ruining the book! – but they especially reflected the old-fashioned ideals of a demure, sociable, pliable lady who’s main aim in life is to secure a husband. Laura Lam questioned what it is to be female, male, a girl and a boy in both obvious and unexpected ways. She also prompted the idea that there are differences between sex and gender which I don’t think I quite got my head around, but it most definitely made me think. Pantomime took on a tough and sensitive subject that I honestly don’t think I’ve ever come across in a book before and it did it brilliantly.
Under the gender struggles lay daily life at the circus. I loved how much danger, disquiet and corruption hides under the magic and illusion; I imagine learning about the behind the scenes of a circus is a lot like seeing your childhood crumble in front of you! I loved how much attention was paid to Micah’s training, the shows and how the other performers treated him, even if it was mostly horrible. Alternating chapters between Gene and Micah gave both the high-class society and the working class circus grounding in the highs and lows of both situations and explore the themes of the novel.
I thoroughly enjoyed Pantomime: it’s unique, beautiful written, engaging and thought-provoking. I bought the sequel before I’d even finished the novel – I’d say that’s a good sign.