Published by Doubleday on September 13, 2011
Genres: Adult Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, YA
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 Reves," 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 per-formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
I was enchanted by this novel – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I finished it exactly a month ago and was planning to review it right away, but I couldn’t find the words. I am here today because I want others to know and read and be enchanted by this book as well. There’s no better introduction for this book than by using a few lines from the real introduction (find the full introduction here):
The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
…Stretched across the top of the gates, hidden in curls of iron, more firefly-like lights flicker to life. They pop as they brighten, some accompanied by a shower of glowing white sparks and a bit of smoke. The people nearest to the gates take a few steps back.
At first, it is only a random pattern of lights. But as more of them ignite, it becomes clear that they are aligned in scripted letters. First a C is distinguishable, followed by more letters. A q, oddly, and several e‘s. When the final bulb pops alight, and the smoke and sparks dissipate, it is finally legible, this elaborate incandescent sign. Leaning to your left to gain a better view, you can see that it reads:
Le Cirque de Reves
Some in the crowd smile knowingly, while others frown and look questioningly at their neighbors. A child near you tugs on her mother’s sleeve, begging to know what it says.
“The Circus of Dreams,” comes the reply. The girl smiles delightedly.
Then the iron gates shudder and unlock, seemingly by their own volition. They swing outward, inviting the crowd inside.
Now the circus is open.
Now you may enter.
And enter, I did. I entered into this magical, beautiful world that makes me think and makes me wonder about the world. (It also really makes me want to go to a circus, but that’s for another time..)
Basically, there is this black and white circus that only comes at night. It travels the world and people everywhere are amazed by what they see – or maybe what they can’t see. There are acrobats and illusionists and contortionists and ice gardens and wishing trees and even a cloud maze. But behind the circus, there’s another story. The story of a boy and a girl, both taught since childhood the mystery of “magic.” They prepare separately to compete against each other, and that competition takes place in what becomes Le Cirque de Reves or the Night Circus.
I loved this book and I definitely think it’s one of my all-time favorites. My absolute favorite thing about is the randomly (or not so randomly) interspersed short chapters that are written in second person. You, you, you. It’s written like the introduction where it brings you into the circus. These chapters are you wandering around the circus, looking through the tents and seeing the acts and. it. is. beautiful. Not many authors would be able to pull this off, but Morgenstern did a marvelous job. These chapters bring the reader directly into the story while at the same time building and adding tension to it.
Another aspect that I enjoyed was Morgenstern’s creation of “magic.” It isn’t magic in the usual sense – you know, the Harry-Potter, wand-waving, spells-chanting type of magic. She creates it as this power that everyone is capable of. Most people just don’t know how to concentrate and use it. And that is a powerful and magical thought (pun very much intended). We are all capable of so much and we just have to fine tune our abilities and what can happen is, well, magic.
Essentially, though, the book is a battle between two people, not necessarily good or evil, not necessarily black or white (*cough symbolism cough*), but two people. It is a constant battle between the black and white rules of life and the gray that, no matter how hard some people may try, will always come.
I highly recommend this book, but let me be frank and give you two warnings: (1) This is not a quick read. It is a deep book and it takes time to digest. And (2) there are moments when you have to pay very close attention. For instance, you need to watch out for the time stamps at the beginnings of the chapters. I didn’t pay attention to them at first and about a quarter of the way in, I realized they have some significance as the story is not told chronologically. Along with the time, you have to pay attention to the characters. There are quite a few. The main ones you’ll remember easily, but there are some characters who seem minor at first, but later have a lot of significance.
But give it a chance. I think you’d be surprised at how much it may draw you in. Go and read and enter the Circus of Dreams.