Micah has a secret. He didn’t run away to join the circus but when he finds himself stood inside the big tent, he knows that’s what he wants to do. He has already left everything he knew behind and cannot go back. On the flip-side, Gene is the daughter of a noble family, destined to be paraded at debutante balls and married off to a deserving suitor. She would much rather be climbing trees with the boys than dancing but her mother is determined for her to be a nice normal girl.

“I’m not a child!”
“Fiddlesticks! You are, even if you think you’re wise and grown. In as little as ten years, you’ll look back on your previous self with a mixture of fondness and embarrassment.”

The world encased within Pantomime is not far removed from the heyday of the circus in the real world. The glamour, glitz and seduction of the big tent is there; an attraction that would not fail to pull crowds at any city or town. The freak show, with a few exceptions, would not be out of place in any 19th century sideshow. The atmosphere of R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is everything that I have been missing in other circus reads of late. Because I really do love a book set in the circus.

It is however a fantasy novel, set in Ellada. The world is reminiscent of steampunk without any overt characteristics. It has elements of both the past, with class structure and society of the past, and the future, where artefacts of a world lost litter the pages. The purpose of the Plenglass domes is unknown to the inhabitants and they are treated with a certain fear and respect. The Vestige is the name given to artefacts which move by magic, but the magic is in short supply. There’s a bit of me that wondered if the magic was electricity or if this was just an analogy. I do get the feeling that the fantasy element will play a bigger part in the sequel as this was all about Micah and Gene.

Pantomime is a difficult book to review without revealing the secret. It didn’t take me long to have my suspicions; the split timeline gives enough hints and the environment it is set in allows the brain to wander there. Fortunately, you don’t need to wait until the end and the majority of the story revolves around if it will be revealed to other characters and what their reactions may be. It’s something that will shock some readers but it’s not used gratuitously; it’s all about acceptance.

It’s a brave book and one that deserves to be read by a wide audience. I hope it will readjust some people’s prejudices; to make them stop and think that we are all human beings with feelings and some things we just can’t help. It’s a refreshing take on running away to join the circus…and other things that I really can’t tell you about. You’ll just have to read it next year!

Pantomime will be published by Strange Chemistry on 7th February 2013 in paperback and ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review on the grounds of being sworn to secrecy (and posting this review early).

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