Shadowplay by Laura Lam – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

Shadowplay

Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, writes his first book review of 2014, looking at Laura Lam’s follow-up to the young adult novel Pantomime, entitled Shadowplay, published by Strange Chemistry Books. This book is currently available to buy in the UK and the USA.

“An excellent read that continues the fine form set by Pantomime, Shadowplay gets 2014 off to a great start and makes Laura Lam an unmissable author with two excellent hits. I could not put this book down, and you won’t be able to as well.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

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.

I was first drawn to Pantomime when I saw it on NetGalley mainly because of the Circus setting. Aside from Haly’s Circus and Nightwing in DC Comics, and Darren Shan’s Cirque Du Freak Saga I haven’t really read any Circus-set books and my decision to review Pantomime was largely based on that, and it’s a choice that I ended up being really glad that I made, because the book was a delight to read, making it on my way to the best of the year lists before the year had even started – as it was due out this last year. And the same is probably going to be said again with Shadowplay, Laura Lam’s excellent followup to the events of Pantomime that is frankly, unmissable for all readers of good young adult fiction. Strange Chemistry haven’t put a bad book in my direction yet (although there has been the odd book that I didn’t like as much as they should) and along with Jo Fletcher Books they certainly have some of the best track record for me right now.

ShadowplayIn the sequel however, the action moves away from the Circus as Drystan and Micah flee for their lives, now wanted. If you’ve ever been an outsider among a group of peers or rooted for outsiders in fiction in the past, then Shadowplay will be a good book for you, much like Pantomime was. Drystan and Micah are both outsiders, and this series will be right up your street. However, even if you’ve never fallen into that category, I strongly recommend checking out this book anyway, because it’s just such a good read. I couldn’t put it down – and I’m glad that 2014’s releases got off to an incredibly good start with this novel.

Shadowplay manages to balance the feeling of treading on familiar ground and exploring new areas. The split narrative between Gene and Micah is now gone, and Micah here seems to be much more comfortable with his sexuality in this book. Micah’s grown as a character considerably since the opening pages of Pantomime and it’s very interesting to see his story unfold, as he’s certainly someone who you’ll want to root for. The other character that gets more pagetime in this book is Drystan and he benefits as a result of this, growing on you as a character just as Micah did. Both will leave an impression on you by the end though, there’s no doubt about that.

The worldbuilding of Ellada is also fleshed out as well in this sequel. If you felt that it was too mysterious and not enough was revealed about it then this book should correct any problems that you’ve had with it, with the history of Ellada being expanded on for the reader and the opening quotes at the beginning of the Chapter help you know a little bit more about the world that Lam has created. Sometimes it’s hard to get the balance between worldbuilding and plot development right however and that’s where many authors fail in their second books of the same series, and this is particularly the case with epic fantasy books. However, I’m safe to say that Shadowplay doesn’t fall into that trap – it gets the balance between world development and plot development right and there was never any moments where the pace felt like it was too slow.

If I had one complaint about Shadowplay is that it, like Pantomime ends on a cliffhanger, and now the wait begins for the next book. I’m generally not the biggest fan of cliffhangers (one of the things that put me off the second Hunger Games book, Catching Fire) but for me It didn’t throw me off as much as it normally does here, mainly because what has followed before was such a strong read that it didn’t matter as much as it would have done if I didn’t like the previous book.

Shadowplay is a well written and compelling second novel that will not disappoint fans of Pantomime, as Laura Lam creates one of the more unique and unorthadox books of 2014 already that should not be missed under any circumstances by readers of young adult fiction who have already experienced Pantomime. It’s an incredibly good read – and this book has almost certainly found its way onto My Top 25 Novels of 2014 already. Highly recommended.

VERDICT: 4.5/5

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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