Laura Lam’s Pantomime was, hands down, one of my very favorite books of 2013.

It stars Micah Grey, an immediately likable and somewhat naive runaway who has some completely understandable trust issues. It’s a very personal story about a small cast of characters set in the close confines of a circus. At the same time, it’s also a HUGE story, as Lam includes information about the history, anthropology, politics and religion of the world, all of which provides a broader context for Micah’s life and worldview. Seriously, the worldbuilding is so excellent: rich and sprawling, but not overpowering.

Pantomime is about family, about choice, about secrets and trust, about gender and identity, about figuring out who you are and about letting other people in. There’s first love, first heartbreak, mysteries galore, there’s friendship and joy, misplaced trust, lies kept too long and, of course, there’s betrayal. It builds to a rather action-packed climax and then ends on a whopper of a cliffhanger, but if you time it right, you’ll be able to read it just before its sequel, Shadowplay, comes out next month.

Shadowplay begins almost immediately after Pantomime ends, with Micah and Drystan the White Clown wanted for two murders (they only actually committed one, and it was in self-defense), AS WELL AS being pursued by a hired gun by Micah’s family. They talk their way into staying with an old friend of Drystan’s—a failed magician—and before long, they’re learning the tricks of the trade, hiding in plain sight while they try to figure out their next move. 

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Lam provides enough information for new readers to get caught up, but I’d strongly, strongly recommend reading the books in order. While a new reader could get the bare bones specifics of Pantomime’s storyline from Shadowplay, the grief and fear that oPantomime-3ur main characters are struggling with—as well as the growing connection between them—won’t have the same emotional impact without the full background. I very much enjoyed spending time in Ellada again, and I especially loved being behind the scenes of a magic show and a fake seance or two, but it should be noted that Shadowplay is very much the middle book in a series—the first book was about getting to know Micah, and this one is much more about tying Micah’s story to the various mysteries and the larger issues in the world—there’s less intense interplay between characters, more exposition and more set-up for the next installment.

Even though the focus is different, fans of the first book will have MUCH to squee over, MANY surprises to…be surprised by and EVEN MORE to discuss, to debate, and to dissect. For instance? Well, the one that has me especially pleased is a rather huge spoiler. So I’ll keep it to myself for now.

I am bursting to talk about it. BURSTING. So if you haven’t read Pantomime yet, DO. Go out and read it, and then read Shadowplay when it’s released next month, and then TALK TO ME ABOUT IT. I’m dying here, guys. DYING.

If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while re-watching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.