Shadowplay by Laura Lam review

shadowplayShadowplay by Laura Lam

Strange Chemistry, December 2013

The circus lies behind Micah Grey in dust and ashes.

He and the white clown, Drystan, take refuge with the once-great magician, Jasper Maske. When Maske agrees to teach them his trade, his embittered rival challenges them to a duel which could decide all of their fates. People also hunt both Micah and the person he was before the circus–the runaway daughter of a noble family. And Micah discovers there is magic and power in the world, far beyond the card tricks and illusions he’s perfecting…

A tale of phantom wings, a clockwork hand, and the delicate unfurling of new love, Shadowplay continues Micah Grey’s extraordinary journey.

When I read Pantomime, Laura Lam shot straight onto my list of favourite YA authors of all time. I loved the unique characters, the enthralling world of Ellada, the magical setting of the circus and the way Laura Lam painted her characters’ emotions and brought their hopes and dreams to life. I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed by this follow up, in which Micah Grey’s adventures continue – this time in the enigmatic world of theatrical magic as part of a team of performing illusionists.

The events at the end of Pantomime have left Micah (understandably) traumatised, and that gave a somewhat sombre, melancholy start to the book, with Micah and Drystan on the run and very little sense of hope for their futures. But it isn’t long before they become involved in the world of magic when they take refuge with Jasper Maske, an acquaintance from Drystan’s past. I loved this aspect of the story, and Lam paints the world of magic and illusion just as vividly as she did that of the circus. The smoke and mirrors of the illusionist’s world echoed the story – every character seems to have something to hide and murky secrets in their past, and no one, not even the dark and mysterious Shadow hunting Micah, is exactly what they seem.

The camaraderie of the world of the circus is missing from Shadowplay, but Lam doesn’t wait long before introducing new characters to entertain us. Jasper Maske, as the bitter old magician who has lost everything for his art, is a compelling combination of great talent and deep sadness, while magician’s assistant Cyan from Kymri brings exoticism and glamour to the mix. Then there is the disturbing figure of Doctor Pozzi, who I just can’t make myself trust despite his reassuring words to Micah – and that’s not just because he has a creepy mechanical hand!

Drystan and Micah’s friendship comes to the fore in this book, and I have to applaud Lam for handling an unusual relationship (at least in YA fiction) with great sensitivity and for making it very real and convincing. We find out a lot more about Drystan – peeling back the white clown’s make-up certainly reveals hidden depths and contradictions. The secrets of the land of Ellada – of the Penglass, Vestige and Chimera – begin to open up too in this book, and, satisfyingly, there is so much more discover – and so much more danger lurking around the corner for Micah. With every bit of information about who and what he is that he manages to uncover, another question goes unanswered, and I had the very unsettling feeling that there could be an enormous personal price for him to pay…

Foolishly, I whizzed through Shadowplay like an eager child trying to figure out how a magic trick works. Now I’m left with a long wait for the next installation, but I’ve no doubt that it will be worth it.

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