The circus arrives without warning; no announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. This circus is not like any ordinary circus; this circus opens at dusk and closes at dawn. Within the black and white striped tents awaits an entirely unique experience, a buffet for the senses.
This is Le Cirque des Rêves.
Beyond the smoke and mirrors, jugglers, acrobats and the fortune-teller, a fierce competition is underway – 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 bond by their capricious masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is the perfect stage for an extraordinary battle of imagination and will. As the circus travels around the world, the game is well underway and the lives of all those involved are swept up in a wake of spells and charms. However, once the two illusionists discover their competitor, they begin to think of the game as a beautiful collaboration rather than a competition. Without knowing the rules of the game, Celia and Marco fall head over heels in love – a deep, passionate and magical love. The masters still pull the strings and this unforeseen complication forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.
This book was sitting at the top of my TBR list ever since I first heard of it, and I have to say that it definitely did not disappoint! I will start off by saying that this is a book that you definitely have to read twice. There are so many little details and nuances that add to the story that are missed on your first time through and that you really don’t understand until it’s too late. I will also give forewarning that the book starts off really slowly . . . but don’t give up on it! I promise you that it gets better and better the more of it you read. The plot starts off with a lot of loose strings – so loose that you cannot see the connections between them other than the obvious, Celia and Marco, and you may dismiss them as being “unimportant” but this would be very wrong to do as they all tie back into the story. I found myself flipping back to previous sections and re-reading them in order for them to make sense in the story. I learned very quickly that no small detail should go unnoticed and that they all were important. I have to reiterate this again: you are not going to fully understand the plot or appreciate the story for what it truly is without reading it a second time – I re-read it as soon as I finished it the first time, it was that good!
There are quite a few main characters, each with their own story within the story, which you as the reader have to keep track of – there’s a grand total of 15! Celia, Marco, Bailey, Tara and Lainie Burgess, Mr. Barris, Madame Padva, Friedrick Thessien, Chrandesh Christophe Lefèvre, Prospero, Poppet and Widget, Tsukiko, Isobel, and Alexander. The chapters also vary in POVs, sometimes it is a character from the circus, other times it is as if you are walking through the circus – it almost feels like a choose your own adventure novel at times, without the choices. There is a lot of time and place jumping as well throughout the novel – one chapter you will find yourself in Europe in the 1800s, then you will be in America in the 1900s, then back to Europe again in a different time. Even though these are typically things that annoy me in a novel, this story would not have been as amazing without them. I would have liked a little more time devoted to the love story within the magic of the circus, particularly towards the end of the story, however the rest of the magic makes up for that small feeling of incompleteness and loss.
I am in love with Morgenstern’s style of writing! The details are beyond amazing – she writes with such detail that the images appear crystal clear in front of your eyes, you can almost smell the caramel and other circus smells - it’s almost like magic. Her elaborate descriptions of magical tents and off-beat performers totally drew me into the story and they are one of the biggest reasons why I totally fell in love with this book. Her characters are amazing but it was her creation of this fantasy world that I became obsessed with – Morgenstern has created the circus of my dreams and I am longing for this circus to become a reality (although my rational mind is telling me that this will never happen).
The Night Circus is an intricate, spellbinding tale that will leave you breathless. It has a dream-like quality to it and the story will leave you wanting Le Cirque des Rêves to come to your town so that you can experience it for yourself. I highly recommend it to everyone as it is one of the best cross-genre novels I have read in a long time.