Micah Grey can climb. Like a squirrel. This talent, along with a daring spirit, is just enough to get him a chance at Ragona's Circus of Magic.
Micah is on the run, from his parents, and from the Policiers. The circus offers a place of refuge, a place to hide amongst the fire eaters, clowns, acrobats and aerialists. It's also a place for outcasts and misfits, the human oddities cruelly labelled freaks. This is where Micah hopes to find a place to belong. But the circus is a hostile place for outsiders until they have proved their worth. Micah is shunned and tormented by the company, as alien here as he felt at home. But a few people see his potential and treat him with enough kindness that his determination to stay is bolstered.
Arik the aerialist takes Micah under his wing, training him on the trapeze. Arik hopes to retire after a long life travelling with the circus flying through the air. Micah has the poise and attitude needed to master the art of the aerialist. Added to the thrill of flying is the thrill of spending time with Aenea, his trapeze partner. She is beautiful, talented, and clearly attracted to Micah - not something he's experienced before.
As Micah makes his way in the circus another story unfolds, that of Iphigenia Laurus. She's destined to be a lady, but is much happier mucking about with her brother Cyril. Fancy frocks and dainty mannersare not her style at all, despite her mother's best efforts. Time is running out for her though, as her entrance into society looms ever closer. Early on we find out that Iphigenia, or Gene as she prefers, has spent her life being prodded and poked by doctors due to some disfigurement. Their efforts have been unsuccessful, except in making Gene utterly fed up with their attentions.
There is so much I can't tell you about this book, because I wouldn't spoil the way the stories interconnect and twist together. At the beginning of each chapter there are little excerpts that add to the story, filling in background about the circus, about magic, about history and chimera. Little by little the truth emerges, but so do a lot of questions. At its heart Pantomime is a story about identity, acceptance, and understanding your own nature - well, that's what I think anyway. Some very complicated emotions and difficult ideas are wrapped up in a beautifully told story. It's a tale of adventure and mysteries too with a dash of romance. I love the lushness of the circus, shot through with an edge of danger. I also love Micah, who fights so hard to find a place to belong, where he can be himself. The circus offers a respite from a less agreeable life.