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 feels 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?
Pantomime is a young adult, fantasy LGBT novel that follows an intersex character, Iphigenia Laurus. Iphegenia is both male and female, and has kept this secret from everyone except her family for her whole life, fearful of what others would think and how it would affect her families standing within society. When things take a turn for the worse and Iphigenia finds out more than she was hoping for, she takes it upon herself to run away to the circus, spending her time doing what she loves best – climbing and flying through the air. But soon her life will catch up with her, and she cannot hide forever.
Pantomime was definitely a brilliant read, and I picked it up primarily for the LGBT side of this novel. I, personally, have never read a novel where a character is intersex and it is something that is intriguing and interesting to read about. I wanted to see how Lam incorporated this into the novel and how the character would respond to their situation and how they would identify. Iphigenia/Micah’s intersexuality is the main story-line within Pantomime as she hopes to find somewhere that will accept her for who she is, and not what they know about her. By joining the circus, she meets many people she has never met before who know nothing about her past and what she used to be like. They all know her as Micah, the climber who came from the merchant classes and has run away to find out who he is and be accepted by those around him. Not only is it about other people accepting him, but I believe that it is about him accepting himself within a society that frowns upon his situation but being able to find his place. This is something that Lam explores really well through the use of old myths and legends, something that Micah can relate to and gives him a sense of hope.
In terms of how Micah identifies, that is for you to find out! As you would expect though, Micah does have mixed feelings about his own sexuality. He shows interest in both male and female characters and it is clear that he is unsure if his feelings are right or not, especially when he is currently identifying as male but becomes flustered by some of his male counterparts. I love that there are no boundaries for Micah in this respect and that Lam doesn’t confine him to one set direction with his sexuality, experimenting with both sides. In the circus setting, his sexuality is normal as Lam frequently comments on the differences such a world allows with men liking men and so forth.
An element that I felt let down with however, was the use of magic. Within the synopsis, you are told that there is magic and that these ‘relics’ call to her. However, that is not how I remember reading it. The only mention of any sort of magic in regards to our main character happen once at the beginning, and once at the end with these ‘relics’ only being drawn to her during those moments. The only way in which they are drawn to her, other than through these moments, are when she is trying to suss out why they exist and what their purpose is – something everyone is still trying to figure out. I was expecting a lot more magical elements within this novel and I was disappointed that this side was a bit lacklustre, though I did still enjoy the novel.
Pantomime is definitely a strong start to this series and I am eager to see what happens to Micah/Iphigenia since the ending of this novel. It was a quick and easy read with fast pacing and the characters were definitely interesting, especially Micah/Iphigenia. I’m glad that her intersex was the focal point of the narrative and that a lot of thought and research has gone into understanding the situation.