Author: Erin Morgenstern
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 Rêves, 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 performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
I am just so floored with Night Circus right now. The name of the circus, Le Cirque des Rêves (French for Circus of Dreams), is very very VERY well chosen. The entire time you're reading you feel like you're in this dream-like trance. Everything is this mystical swirl of fantasy and amazement. I don't even know if I can describe it. I was absolutely amazed and it takes a lot for me to get that way.The only way I can think of to describe it is for those original Harry Potter lovers out there. Think about the when you picked up Harry for the first time. You might have heard about it from a friend, and you think, "How can this be any good? It looks like a little kid's book"...but then somewhere something starts to change your mind. You realize that this book is pure magic, that there is something extraordinary about this book, this series, and you know it's going to be something great. (For me it was the mystery of Dumbledore and the put-outer in the very first chapter). Regardless of when you felt it, at some point, you realized that this book has the potential to maybe change the world and literature as we know it. Well my friends...Night Circus might very well be one of those books.
Each chapter switches between time, place, and character. Intermixed with these chapters are ethereal descriptions of the different tents and attractions at the circus. You're lost in a maze of illusion and wonder. You never know where or when or who you will be. I admit, this style was a little confusing at first. I couldn't figure out the cast of characters right away and just when I thought I got the hang of it, we would just jump to a completely different time and character that we hadn't visited before. Eventually, I finally figured most of it out and really started to fall in love with the mystery of the whole thing. I began to enjoy all of the weird eccentricities of the characters. You would have a chapter of the contortionist as she joins the circus, then flash forward to a decade later and see how the circus has affected her. It was really quite bizzarre, but I enjoyed the change of pace from normal novel format. The one time I did get a little upset with it was in the very end when we would have a chapter leading up to a dramatic and potentially life-altering event, and then would fast forward to a time right after it when everything seems lost! I was kind of dreading actually finding out what happened, but then everything falls into place and I realized that the sequence was really kind of brilliant and that it wouldn't have had the same effect if done any other way.
There is an impossible amount of characters to cover,(I believe there are actually 15 alternating POV's) and they all range in varying importance but they are all completely necessary to make the book as amazing as it was. The two magical competitors/protagonists/lovers are Celia and Marco. Celia is the illegitimate daughter of Prospero the Great, who bound her to the contest knowing that she could be killed. This harsh mindset has been applied to other aspects of her life. One of her "training sessions" was Prospero cutting open her finger tips with a knife and he would keep doing it until she could heal all the finger tips at once. Marco on the other hand, is an orphan. He was raised and trained for the sole purpose of participating in the challenge. What is the challenge do you ask? Well it's a magical fight to the finish where the better magician is the only one left standing, except Marco and Celia don't know about that part. If they did, they probably would try harder to not fall in love with each other. Collateral damage in this game of skills is the Patrons of the Circus and the other performers themselves. The patrons are all mysterious in their own way, but if they become suspicious that anything is amiss in their circus (they are unaware of the challenge occurring at it's very heart) they seem to meet with untimely deaths. In the words of my favorite pirate Captain Jack Sparrow, "Interesting....very interesting."
The final chapters are really what takes this book and elevates it to the extraordinary. It's more than plot and setting and character. These last glimpses at the circus and the characters take on a kind of timelessness and amazement that I haven't seen anywhere else. Things that are said leave you thinking for hours afterwards, wondering what they could mean, and even contemplating things like the meaning of life itself. The last chapters are what convince you that you have been reading something great, something magical, something that shouldn't be forgotten easily.