I am not sure how I happened to come across The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, but it is a book that kept me reading all weekend. I was looking for a little steampunk or maybe an urban fantasy, and instead I found this morsel of exquisite beauty.
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.
Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.
This is an unusual book. It is most certainly not written in the dumbed-down 60-second sound-bites current wisdom tells us we must write all fantasy in. The beautiful, dreamlike prose is written with an Edwardian flair and care for the crafting of the words, yet it is written in modern English.
The magic is completely unexplainable, and is meant to be that way. No believable explanations are given for how each of the protagonists create their magic. It is a performance, solely for the amazement of the reader and is completely in keeping with the mood and ambiance of the tale. I know I am a stickler for realistic magic systems but in this case I am letting that criteria slide, because the magic is not the point of the plot.
The contest, the minor characters who are unaware they are caught up in the contest, and how Celia and Marco counter each other's moves is the central facet of the tale.
The characters are not fully fleshed when they are set before you. Instead they are revealed slowly, with each revelation enticing you to stay riveted to the book.
What IS fully fleshed is the dreamlike environment of Le Cirque des Rêves, the amazing, mysterious Circus of Dreams.
This is a beautiful, dark and moody book. The characters and the Cirque des Rêves stay with you, long into your own dreams.