Synopsis: 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 lives 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.
Both playful and seductive, The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern's spell-casting debut, is a mesmerizing love story for the ages.
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”
This book is bewitching. Enrapturing. Magical. It wraps you into its beautiful prose, unraveling a dream-like narrative that tugs on your heartstrings. You're left wide eyed and yearning for more, even though the wonder of the circus is perennial.
The slow-burning built of The Night Circus is what initially threw me off; I expected full-on battles of wizardry and majestic illusion. Instead, I got mesmerizing subtleties of love speckled with war, of seduction and manipulation that simultaneously sizzle with fate's irony. And despite the need for more action, I was gradually hooked by the lovely words and clever storytelling until I realized I did not want to let go of the book anymore.
“We lead strange lives, chasing our dreams around from place to place.”
In a magical duel that is governed by unknown rules, Celia and Marco are pitted against each other and the revenue of their illusions is Le Cirque des Reves and their spectators are the entire world. As a pair, these two are exquisitely refreshing. They do not shy away from manipulation, achieving Machiavellian traits around the edges, but their passion and intensity often allow for glimpses of the humanity that still resides in their hearts. Celia -- beautiful, calculated, a natural illusionist. Marco -- handsome, ambitious, a hardworking scholar. Two sides of the same coin, trapped in a dance of romance and death.
“I am tired of trying to hold things together that cannot be held. Trying to control what cannot be controlled. I am tired of denying myself what I want for fear of breaking things I cannot fix. They will break no matter what we do.”
What was immensely enjoyable was their clever moves on an endless board. Precisely because of this, because of them, the circus felt a different and solitary entity altogether. It was not simply a stage; it was a world. And they built it up and up in a wondrous manner, whimsical and enchanting and I could not help than simply feel bewitched by the attention to detail and sheer innovation at some renderings.
But props are also due for the author, of course, especially in the imagery department. Masterful storytelling, to the point that you are deeply immersed into black-and-white striped tents, eating chocolate popcorn and watching Tsukiko's performance. The slow pace goes hand in hand with the world building (if it might be called that) of the circus.
The game, on the other hand, is a different matter. Sometimes the flawless tapestry of illusion unthreads and the dreams make way for reality in a disconcerting, hurtful manner. Quite sad to see, taking into consideration it also affects some characters for whom you are most likely to form an attachment. It just all goes to show how incredibly balanced a life must be, not merely magic, or merely non-magic, or just black and white, but magic and reality and black and white and shades of crimson.
Every single character is distinctly portrayed and most win you over in no time. The eccentric Chandresh, the lovely Burgess sisters, the elegant Tante Padva, the innovative Mr. Barris. Surprisingly, I was quite fond of Alexander as well. Mysterious Tsukiko, not-so-special Bailey, lonely Isobel and kind Herr Thiessen are other great additions. But heartwarming feelings were augmented whenever Poppet and Widget were around; they are something else; they are the circus in a sense and perhaps that's why they are so incredible.
One thing I tremendously appreciated was how central time itself, kronos, felt. From the puppeteers that started it all and have a curious bond with the flow of time (Hector and Alexander), to the alternative time parallels that embellish the narrative and how the game spans years and years, all elements within the circus are in sync. The clock, the birth of the twins, the characters' frozen aging, Isobel's appearance, Bailey, to name just a few. The complexity astounds me, making the novel timeless.
And last, but not least, the ending in is bittersweet perfection. That is all.
“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 that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”
The Night Circus is well worth the praise it has received. With hypnotizing flavors of enigmas and mysteries woven into its very essence, it tells a story about transcendent love, unending time and impossibilities given life through imagination. It is a tale of character and context at the same time, yet constantly highlighting the reversibility of life -- dreams might turn into nightmares, but nightmares might turn into dreams too.