“Make it dreamlike,” one character exhorts another.
Author Erin Morgenstern has certainly done so. Ethereal, other-worldly, fantastic and any other adjective you want to throw in there: The Night Circus is all of them.
Le Cirque des Reves appears around the world. It is not announced in the local paper. It leaves just as quickly as it arrived. And it has one very important feature, it opens at dusk and closes at dawn. Guests are treated to amazing sights, sounds, and smells, many of which have to be seen to be believed. There’s the normal circus fare, candied apples, acrobats and all that. But there’s deeper things too. A room of clouds, a tent made completely of ice inside, a bonfire that burns white continuously. If it doesn’t seem like an ordinary circus, it’s because it’s not.
Of course there’s magic. In the writing and in the plot. And of course it’s held on to by petty magicians holding a contest to decide who is better. The Night Circus is their arena. Celia Bowen and Marco Alistair are their game pieces. To compete, they must employ their magic around the circus. Enhancing attractions of all sorts to determine a winner. But of course, there’s a catch. One of them will die by the end of the contest. It is, as they say, part of the game.
At it’s heart, The Night Circus a love story. The characters love the circus, they love each other’s creations, and they slowly begin to fall in love with each other. The romantic tension drips from the prose, always in good ways. The descriptions are deft but contain the maximum impact for a reader. I truly felt the longing, the desire, and the heartbreaks.
The circus itself is populated with a fun cast of characters. They all get their quirks, and their shot in the limelight. The circus itself brings you back to childhood, when simple things astounded. Like the tiny pinpoints of a bug crawling along your palm, or the feel of moss between your toes. Those feelings invoke intense emotion and Morgenstern does the same thing with her beautiful descriptions.
I found myself flying through this book, just to eat up the words. There’s some serious lingering questions for me, though. Like why is there this macguffin child? What will the game prove? How has this situation not arisen before? These really come to distract in the end. But the book itself provides enough joys and thrills that plot problems are easily overlooked.
Evocative, and with a sense of nostalgia for something I’ve never experienced, The Night Circus is a must read. I can’t believe I didn’t find it sooner.
3 1/2 out of 4 stars.
P.S. pay attention to the dates in the chapter titles. Flash backs and forwards can be confusing at times.