The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. It took me awhile to get to it, but I’m so glad I finally did. The story is about two competing magicians, but it is so much more than Harry Potter for adults. (I love HP, but this is something very different). The Circus is described as dreamlike, and Morgenstern describes things in such a light and tactile way that you feel as though you’re smelling, seeing, and feeling Le Cirque Des Reves just as her characters are experiencing it.
Essentially the story is about two competitors entered into a game against their will. The game ends only when one of them fails through an inability to sustain the magic they’ve created within the circus. This collapse will kill the loser and the winner will be free of the game. The game is to keep the circus, which is maintained by magic, running while continuing to add newer and increasingly intricate tents for the audience.
The competitors are Celia and Marco. Celia is the circus Illusionist and possesses a magic she was born with, an ability that was moulded and sharpened by her father’s cruel instruction. She is loving and compassionate despite being raised by a sadistic man who entered her in a twisted game when she was only 6 years old. Marco was plucked from an orphanage and spent his childhood and adolescence studying and reading books to learn his magic. After this dull grey upbringing, Celia and the circus ignite an unwavering passion in him. Inevitably, they fall in love. Ironically they continue to play the game by building magic tents not just for the circus audience, but for each other making the circus magic harder and harder to sustain. One tent is filled with clouds that can be climbed, another is a garden covered in ice, and another a wishing tree for patrons to make wishes on.
The description in the book is so precise and colourful, without being lengthy, that you can vividly picture every detail of the circus and each of its main characters. The characters too hold a unique and magical quality that makes you feel you are truly in a Wonderland-like dream. The book is dotted with excerpts that revert to second person (think choose-your-own-adventure books), and describe to you what you are doing and seeing at the circus. The effect is that it pulls you even deeper into the book and the circus itself. As you read you become an illustrious Reveur. The Reveurs are the characters in the story who are inexplicably drawn to and obsessed with the circus. They wear red scarves and follow it around from place to place. Like them, the story pulls you in and you become a bit obsessed with the circus and its characters. The imagery lingers like an imprint in your mind even when you are not reading it.
Have you read The Night Circus?
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