The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Published Year: 2011
Genre: Historical Fantasy
The circus arrives without warning.
"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 Reves," 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 per-formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead."
I am officially obsessed with this book. I was told I would love it. I was enticed enough by the pretty cover to buy it. But I put off reading it, leaving it in my TBR pile for a depressingly long period of time. Time I could've spent cherishing this story. It's also my favorite genre (historical fantasy), so what was I even thinking? I mean, really. Clearly I wasn't, because if I had, I would've been reading.
EM has presented this magical, mysterious story in the most magical, mysterious way. Told in different pieces of time (not flashbacks precisely, but the years do jump around), with different characters in focus, this book mostly follows the Night Circus. The timeline is truly very interesting, because you aren't presented immediately with the circus, or even how the circus comes about, but once you get further into the story, every story or personality you've been introduced to becomes extremely relevant to the circus story.
The characters, oh the characters. EM brings them to life separately and makes you care for each of them. She brings them into focus, twirls them in front of you and then pushes them into the circus. Sometimes this is flawless, sometimes there are bumps along the way for the characters, and sometimes worse than bumps. But really, my favorite character was the circus itself. Oh, I hear you, "how can a circus be a character?". Well, that's a question for EM, because let me tell you, the circus is a character. Promise.
One of my favorite aspects was "the challenge", and I'm going to be deliberately vague here to avoid spoilers. I do wish EM had put more emphasis on why the two main characters (after the circus, of course) were pitted against one another in this challenge. At its core, it was a challenge of chaos versus order and which of these is superior. However, what was really fascinating, was that the two methods were both cruel in different ways. There's the abject cruelty of one method and the cruelty of neglect in the other method. Is there any wonder that the challengers clung to each other in such a situation? There is also a previous challenger in this story (don't worry, I won't say who), and his/her perspective and view of the world was extremely interesting. It was the perspective of an outsider and a veteran, but EM was careful not to express this character as all-knowing or even correct. I felt that when this character's past was revealed, it was more of a bitter warning of what could happen to a challenger rather than foreshadowing.
The writing. I'm drooling over the writing. If I ever wrote a novel and someone was to give me a compliment to whose writing style I was similar to, I would want it to be EM (or JK Rowling, I mean you can't go wrong with JK Rowling). Because the book focuses on the circus rather than a specific character's storyline, the narration is a little more round, meaning fuller but also very focused on the circus. There are snippets of observation and mystery that I'm not used to getting as reader. I also was able to see both more and less of the plotlines of the characters. I was able to see the more that related to the circus and the less that related to each other. I craved knowing more, but it was just enough information to be magical and mysterious without being too detailed.
5 out of 5 stars.
Thought you ought to know:
If you don't think these prints are gorgeous, you're lying. The first one is Bailey in his tree, looking at the circus, and I just think it's beautiful. The second is Celia with her ravens, and it's equally gorgeous but with completely different style. Also, The Night Circus has generated some pretty spectacular fanart (see my favorite two below).
That's right, you're looking at Poppet and Widget and their cats and the Wishing Tree. So unbelievably gorgeous. Sigh.
Disclaimer: none of these beautiful pictures are mine.