I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to be able to step into a book this much. For pretty much the entire length of The Night Circus I was utterly hypnotised by the premise of a magical circus that opens at dusk and closes at dawn. It’s a circus full of every amazing element of the spectacle we expect with a touch of genuine magic for good measure. I was utterly captivated from the opening page.
The Night Circus is being billed as the most original novel since The Time Travellers Wife, and it even boasts a quote from Audrey Niffengger on the cover. She calls it “Playful and intensely imaginative” and also quips “This is a marvellous book”. When I heard that the book came with such statements from one of my favourite authors my interest shot through the proverbial roof. It’s a bonus, then, that Audrey isn’t wrong.
Set in the late 1800’s and bordering the early 20th century, The Night Circus is a story about two young people, Celia and Marco, who can perform magic. Real magic. Their respective guardians enter the two of them in a competition that will see them use their magic to impress the public, using the circus as their stage. The two central characters use their talents to develop amazing tents that feature within the circus and they grow in spectacle as the novel progresses.
The two guardians of our central characters are despicable people and could be considered the ‘bad guys’ here. Hector, Celia’s father is constantly cruel and demeaning to her and Alexander, Marco’s guardian is brutish and distant. I wish that more had been explained about these men that are so pivotal to the plot, though. Their motivations for the challenge aren’t fully explained, even in the finale of the book.
Celia and Marcos story is one of suspense and romance. As complete strangers they are entered into the challenge with no knowledge of what the challenge actually entails, they don’t even meet each other for years. The romance may put some off of the book but to be honest it isn’t overly mushy or soppy and because of the tension set up by “the challenge” it always features an edge of what if.
Erin Morgensterns writing is as magical as the plot. She weaves descriptive prose with sharp dialogue throughout and her words grip the reader causing the novel to become quite a pageturner. What she really must be applauded for, however, is her ability to create such a dreamlike world that becomes so inviting.
This brings me to the real star of the book and that is The Night Circus itself. The circus becomes something the reader actually wants to materialise in a neighbouring field. I wanted to see the black and white striped tents in the distance and walk its maze of walkways that link the tents of performers. I wanted to experience everything the author describes from the magical Ice Garden to the chocolate covered popcorn. I actually closed the book slightly disappointed that such a place doesn’t really exist.
The book sets out to make you a Rêveur, a dreamer, named after the circus itself, Le Cirque des Rêves. The Rêveurs are ordinary people who become so besotted with the circus that they follow it around the World. Reading about such people who hold an abundance of passion, in their black outfits with red scarves they are the embodiment of the reader and a main focal point of the book.
My only gripe is the last 50 pages or so. The wrapping up of the plot loses the tightness of the remainder of the novel and becomes a little convoluted… and that’s saying something when it’s a book about people who can perform real magic in such a circus. It doesn’t really detract from the experience, but I was left feeling slightly deflated.
Regardless, I can’t but recommend the book. Morgensterns work is brilliant and full of imagination. A fairytale for the 21st century, The Night Circus is set to take over the World. More so as the book has been optioned by Summit the makers of the Twilight films. Read it now and say you were one of the first Rêveurs.
The Night Circus is available now. Thank you to the publisher for sending through a copy for review.