Published by Strange Chemistry on 2nd January 2014
Genre: YA, Fantasy
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There are likely to be mild spoilers for the first book ahead! Please stop reading if you haven't read the first book and want to avoid spoilers entirely. Read my review of the first book, Pantomime, here.
The circus lies behind Micah Grey in dust and ashes.I know, I know, I gave the first book five stars, and I only gave this one four, so I'm hearing you ask me: was this book not as good? I'm not sure that's totally true. I think the first book gave me such a heady rush of delight because everything was so new and shiny and oh my god, a bisexual intersex character in a YA fantasy series!!!! Great world-building, intriguing mysteries, etc. etc. And Micah and the world of the Archipelago continue to be awesome in this book, but that's nothing new, so I am judging this book simply on its own merits. Hence it only gets four stars. I love this series from the bottom of my heart, and I am dying for the third book. But this book isn't quite a five-star read on its own, since I found the plot just a little weak.
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.
There are so many things I love about it though! The romance between Drystan and Micah is pitch perfect, developing slowly over this book in a very realistic and heart-melting way, with many touching moments between the two, and many sparks of heat too. That was one of my favourite things about this book. We got Drystan backstory, and he is so complex! I love him. There's more darkness in him than there is in Micah, and I just find that so delicious. I love Drystan to bits (new book boyfriend!) and can't wait to read the first of the Vestigial Tales that Lam is going to publish very soon: The Snake Charm, all about Drystan and how he became the leader of the clowns.
Then there's Cyan. CYAN, cover girl of this book and awesomeness personified. I loved her bright, sharp personality, her easy acceptance of Micah and Drystan, and the way she and Micah get to know each other over the course of this book, finding out that they're more similar than they realised. Her storyline was very intriguing.
Micah just grows so much more comfortable in his own skin in this book. It was wonderful to watch, how he got closer to Cyan and Micah and could enjoy these very real friendships and have their support and trust. It was also nice to see he still kept up correspondence with his brother, Cyril. It's a pity there wasn't more of that, since that was one of my favourite relationships in the first book. But I loved getting to know Micah better too, to learn how he felt about his own identity and his place in the world.
The magic plot, however, wasn't my favourite. I didn't really connect with that, and I didn't feel like the way the plot was resolved was ever in doubt for me. There weren't too many surprises in this book, whereas the last book came to a really heart-stopping and exhilarating climax that I didn't really see coming. I still enjoyed aspects of it – the final performance was pretty cool! – but otherwise the storyline about Micah learning to perform magic and the magician's duel between Jasper Maske and his old rival, Pen Taliesin, just wasn't that captivating.
There was another plot running through the book, concerning the Phantom Damselfly that Micah brought with him from the circus, and Micah learning more about his true nature. This was a bit more interesting, but some of the reveals just lacked the oomph that I was expecting, and I felt like a lot of it was just laying down the groundwork for the next book, so I was a bit frustrated that all these things sort of felt like they hardly led to anywhere within this book. But I'm hoping the next book will solve that problem!
But yeah, where Shadowplay really excels is with its characters: their individual development and the relationships between them. MICAH AND DRYSTAN, seriously!!! So much squee. I can't wait to read more about them in the next book. They are both so wonderful and their romance is just... *swoon* I hope to see more of Cyan too! Sadly it looks like it'll be a while before the third book comes out, but I'm sure the Vestigial Tales will tide me over in the meantime...