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.
Discussing Shadowplay is impossible without revealing some major spoilers for the previous book Pantomime. If you haven’t read it and want to remain unspoiled, please read no further. You’ve been warned: here be spoilers!
Laura Lam’s debut Pantomime was exquisite. Not only was it wonderfully atmospheric and exciting, it also featured an intersex protagonist, something I at least hadn’t seen written about before and it was done beautifully and with care. So to say that my expectations were high for Shadowplay would be an understatement. To my delight, Lam managed to meet all of them and even left them behind with her second book in the Micah Grey series.
After the climactic events of Pantomime, Micah and Drystan find refuge with an old mentor of Drystan’s, Jasper Maske and move from the circus ring to the magic theatre stage. I loved how Lam managed to find them a new place but with a similar enchanting atmosphere to the circus. The magic we see them learn under Maske’s tutelage is a well-developed mix between sleight-of-hand and illusions. Maske’s teaching of magic and séances was interesting and cool and even drew back the curtains on some of the mechanics of illusion. In a way the story evoked The Prestige somewhat in its rivalry between Jasper Maske and his former partner Pen Taliesin. I loved this plotline and Lam plays it out beautifully.
Jasper Maske is a wonderful paternal character in need of redemption. This is given to him by the family he collects around him consisting of people who find refuge in his old, run-down theatre. Lam makes him both sympathetic and a bit mysterious, without having him become pitiful due to his past. The main other new addition is Cyan, a Temnian girl who’s run away from home to escape her parents’ disapproval of her abilities. She’s a wonderful addition to the mix, creating a bit of tension between Micah and Drystan, but also just interesting in and of herself. Other characters who play their part are Lily Vere, Maske’s lady love, and Pen Taliesin and his grandsons, who are the main adversaries in this book. And of course there is the Shadow who has been looking for Micah to return him to his parents.
Lam also expands the reader’s knowledge of Ellada, both in the book’s present and its past. In the present we learn more about the current political situation through the presence of the Foresters, a group who protests the current distribution of power between classes. I expect them to play a larger part in the next book, but in Shadowplay they are one of the signals that all is not well in Ellada. We learn more about the past and Ellada’s history with the Chimaera and the Alder through the memories imparted to Micah by the Phantom Damselfly, whose name turns out to be Anisa. I loved Anisa’s memories and the way she can still be a character with agency despite having been ‘stored’ on a disc. Lam also uses Anisa and her memories to create a greater story arc. Where Pantomime was intimate, a coming-of-age story if you will, Shadowplay widens the scope to becoming a saving-the-world story in the rest of the series.
It’s hard to talk about the book without giving too much away, which might make this review seem somewhat vague, however I truly adored Shadowplay. Lam’s writing is gorgeous and with Shadowplay she’s proven she’s here to stay and has put herself on my must-read list. While the story can be read without having read Pantomime, not having read it takes away from the story Lam is weaving and I highly recommend you pick it up before reading Shadowplay. If you have read Pantomime, you probably don’t need me to convince you to go read it. Shadowplay was brilliant, even if it ends on somewhat of a cliff hanger, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.