Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Release Date: September 13, 2011
Source: personal copy
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.
“They want to believe that magic is nothing but clever deception, because to think it real would keep them up at night, afraid of their own existence.”
This is one of those books I was ambivalent about before I started it. I had seen both good and bad reviews of it, so I had placed it in the “eh, maybe I’ll get to it someday” section of my TBR list. Turns out, “someday” was the end of December, as it was chosen for the January read in Jen’s (The Literate Housewife) book club. And my fears were unfounded. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop.
At its heart, The Night Circus is a love story. Celia and Marco start out as pawns in a game with roots much older than them. To their instructors, they are not their children, but instruments being used to prove a point. The Circus is no more than a venue for their battle, until it becomes everything.
If you’re looking for a fast-moving plot, this may not be the book for you. The story meanders a bit, moving back and forth in time. I found that to be a bit confusing early in the story, but later you’re flipping between the same month in two different years, and I thought that was easier to follow. In-between parts of the story are short vignettes written in the second person (you), which I believe are meant to place the reader directly in the circus, to see what it would be like as a visitor who has no idea about how everything works. Truthfully, those bits could probably have been cut from the story with little damage, but they do make for a nice break from the story.
The best part of the book is the richness of the descriptions. You can visualize everything the author describes, even if it’s something you’ve never seen before in your life. And the circus is full of things like that — ice gardens, rooms full of clouds, libraries of bottles filled with memories.
Is it a perfect book? No. Some of the characterization could have been more robust, and sometimes the explanations of how the magic worked were a bit hard to understand. But I was charmed by the story, much much more than I expected to be. So give it a shot… you may be charmed too.
- “The Night Circus sucked me in and I couldn’t stop marveling at every page.” — this ain’t livin’
- “This book grabbed my attention in a very clever way and then I simply couldn’t put it down.” — Book Chick City
- “The Night Circus is a feast for the senses, conjuring up beautiful scenes and luscious scents.” — Caribou’s Mom