Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.
Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves.
Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way–a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a “game” to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, 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.
As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lvies of all those involved–the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them–are swept up in a wake of spells and charms.
But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.”
There are good books and there are great books. This book is neither. This is the kind of book you press warmly and wordlessly into the palms of friends knowing that as you do so you are bestowing them with a piece of your heart. It is simply resplendent.
I cannot speak highly enough of The Night Circus. It is as if Erin Morgenstern has woven a tapestry out of all the things I love from every genre. Everything is here: magic and mystery, romance and risk, darkness and dreams. Structurally, a tapestry is an appropriate analogy. Morgenstern creates a phantasmagoria of perspectives that jump through time and space. The story is presented from the points of view fifteen different characters and, at first, it is utterly baffling as to how and when their paths will overlap. Nonetheless, I was drawn in to each characters world, fascinated by how they might play a part in the story of The Circus of Dreams. Slowly, each of these threads starts to weave together until the plots converge and suddenly you are able to stand back and view the final, spectacular image as a whole. And boy, is it spectacular.
The language and imagery of The Night Circus is truly exquisite. Morgenstern’s descriptions are both sumptuous and scintillating and filled with so much richness that I did not just visualise Les Cirque des Rêves; I felt it. I read and reread paragraphs savouring her turn of phrase and often came across sentences so beautiful I had to pause to let the words sink in. The Circus is alive with rich imagery that blends clockwork Victorian steampunk with the decadence of Vaudevillian burlesque.
Never before have I been so keen to slip between the pages and escape into a literary world for good. A perfect blend of darkness, dreams and magical realism, The Night Circus is, at its heart, a spell-binding love story that both seduced and enchanted me. It was with a mournful reluctance that I eventually left Les Cirque des Rêves and tip-toed back into reality.
If you like this, you might like: Stardust by Neil Gaiman