Published by Doubleday on September 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Source: My copy
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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.
“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”
An impressive debut novel by Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus is one of those stories which either captivates the reader, or puts them to sleep and thankfully I was most definitely captivated. Set in the late 1800s, you are introduced to 2 young magicians – Celia and Marco who have without choice, been trained for a contest that will span the majority of their lives. The playing field for the contest is The Night Circus, a wondrous and magical Cirque Du Soleil-esque affair that mysteriously appears in different locations around the world only to vanish again after a few days leaving a profound impact on those who visit it.
The story is filled with beautiful prose, there were so many quotes that resonated with me and provided such a rich texture for the story that I guess I understand why both the author and editor let the story run away with itself. I certainly would have found it hard culling some of those poetic paragraphs even though the story felt at times like one long description with no real plot or substance. The book is a little under 400 pages yet it was a long 400 pages and I often caught myself wondering if it was ever going to end and if anything was actually going to happen.
The book is written in 3rd person which makes it quite hard to connect with the characters and I felt it made the romance between Celia and Marco a little hard to swallow. Yes there were endless paragraphs about lights flickering when they touched and how the world stopped when they looked into each others eyes but it simply came across as text, you never really got to feel or understand why they loved each other so completely. The main characters were disappointing all round – very 2 dimensional with no defining characteristics or redeemable qualities other than their magic. The secondary characters, Isobel, Alexander, Tsukiko, Chandresh, & Friedrick Thiessen were much more interesting and are what kept this story fresh and dynamic.
The circus itself is quite simply the star of the show. The immersion is complete and sensory, the exhibits sound purely breathtaking, I want to visit the Ice Garden, make a wish on the Wishing Tree and just sit and watch Friedrick Thiessen’s clock as it goes through its 24 hour cycle.
“You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Reves and into the creeping dawn, that you felt more awake within the confines of the circus.
You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.”
I wavered while reading this story between a 3 star and 4 star rating. I was leaning towards 3 stars until I read the last few chapters – the solid ending definitely tipped the scales and I decided this book was worth the 4 stars. While this was no fast paced climax that left you on the edge of your seat exhilarated, it was a thoroughly satisfying finale. Like one of Chandresh’s midnight feasts, this isn’t something to be rushed, instead take your time to enjoy and mull over the minute details.
I’ll leave you with one more quote:
“Stories have changed, my dear boy,” the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. “There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need to rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The quests lack clarity of goal or path. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognize for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep overlapping and blur, your story is part of your sister’s story is part of many other stories, and there in no telling where any of them may lead. Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act? Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such lengths as to dress as a grandmother to toy with its prey.”