Published: January 7th 2014 by Strange Chemistry
Format: eARC, 299 pages
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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.
Shadowplay is the sequel to Pantomime, a 2013 début that followed a run-away child who joined a circus. Although I enjoyed this book on many levels, I ultimately feel that it failed to engage me in the way that I wanted.
One of the things that contribute to this feeling is that a lot of the things I loved about the previous book simply aren’t present. The dual stories of Gene and Micah were quite engaging, and this book is more concerned with the world that Micah lives in, rather than explaining the differences in how Gene and Micha lived. The problem is, I don’t understand the world of Shadowplay.
Oh, I get in in the broadest sense: a mysterious race called the Alder has disappeared, leaving behind magical trinkets called vestige (which are incredibly valuable now) and glowing glass called Venglass. Shadowplay delves into that mysterious past, through the memories and experiences of the damselfly from Pantomime. The Chimera completely underwhelmed me and they failed to capture my imagination.
I have no feel for this world. It’s incredibly frustrating – I feel like I can almost see the full picture except a piece of the puzzle, and the most vital piece, isn’t there or just hasn’t clicked into place for me. I don’t connect with it, and I have no sense of it history and intricacies. The politics don’t make sense to me, and even worse, it feels like the author didn’t expend the necessary effort to make it clear to readers.
The characters are the heart and soul of this book – familiar favourites like Micah and Drystan, and new characters like Maske, a washed up magician who takes the two fugitives in, and my favourite, Cyan, who’s on the front cover (I think). Micah, who is inter-sex, has come to terms with themselves and is now learning to trust those around them with their secret. One of the things I love is how many people accept Micah, no questions asked. Something about Maske made me like him even though he’s uber shady and has many secrets. He’s well written – a broken man who has some hope and sweetness inside him, which makes him redeemable. I’d very much like to see how his relationship with Cyan changes after he finds out her secret.
I think my favourite aspect of the book is the plot-line, which is deceptively simple! It’s about Micah and Drystan learning magic so that they can help Maske defeat his arch-enemy – another magician with whom he had a falling out many years ago. I loved the passages which described the magic tricks, how they worked and how they looked. I think the illusions are incredibly visceral in the book. This relatively simple plot-line is a perfect backdrop for the exploration of Micah’s relationships, the Chimera’s past, and Micah’s mysterious origins, which would have easily overpowered a more complicated story.
Shadowplay is a must-read for those who enjoyed Pantomime, and although I didn’t connect with the world, I still think it’s a worthy sequel.