“This is in part why there is less magic in the world today. Magic is secret and secrets are magic, after all, and years upon years of teaching and sharing magic and worse. Writing it down in fancy books that get all dusty with age had lessened it, removed its power bit by bit. It was inevitable, perhaps, but not unavoidable. Everyone makes mistakes.”
Author: Erin Morgenstern Published: 2011 Pages: 490
I’ve seen The Night Circus here and there for years now, and I’m so glad that I finally got a chance to pick it up and read it. The novel concerns a circus which is only open from sunset to sunrise – called Le Cirque des Rêves (The Circus of Dreams), attendees can enter any of the numerous tents which are filled with everything from an ice garden to a cloud maze, and acrobatic kittens to a whole host of magical shows. The characteristically black and white circus appears without warning in various places, and is gone as clandestinely as it arrived. But the circus has more to it than meets the eye; what is invisible to an outsider is that the circus is a pawn in a darker and more powerful game. At the centre are two magicians: Prospero (named for the Tempest’s famous sorcerer) and Mr A.H. Both magicians chose their players (who were children at the time) and from then on, spend years and years training them to win the enigmatic challenge. Jumping around in time, the narrative switches perspective to show how the two proteges (Celia and Marco) are handling the challenge, while also documenting the goings-on of the magical circus and its performers. As Celia and Marco try to understand the rules of the challenge, and more importantly, how to win, they discover it is darker and more dangerous than they could ever have initially imagined.
I can safely say this book ticked every box I wanted it to: Magic, yes. Complicated/perplexing circus performances, yes. Strong protagonists who have mysterious abilities and discover their true capabilities by the end of the novel, tick. But I have to admit, the plot did get a little confusing for me. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the complexity of the plot, and the detail which clearly gave the novel a plausible finesse, but honestly, I’m not sure I knew what happened until right at the end. As much as I am a strong advocate for books over film-adaptations, this is the kind of novel where seeing the magic and the performances would be so much more satisfying than reading them. And don’t get me wrong, Morgenstern writes them beautifully, it’s just if I come home from a long day at work, my tired brain struggles to comprehend that much detail.
On the other hand, I loved the direction that she took the plot; my predictions and assumptions about the novel when I first starting reading were constantly changing with every turn of the page. Weirdly, no matter how crazy or far-fetched the magic became, it still never felt implausible. She successfully keeps it interesting and exciting while also portraying relatable and lovable characters. For me personally, I think Celia and Poppet were probably my favourite. I loved both their curiosity, their gumption, and their ability to control and handle a situation with ease and wisdom. There were some worryingly manipulative and psychotic characters in the novel too, but I suppose they were there to remind us that there is always evil no matter how charming and fantastical a circus may be. I don’t think a book has ever given me a bigger desire to run off with a circus and befriend the mysterious performers more than The Night Circus did.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this book if any of its genres are something you normally enjoy reading. Morgenstern is a fantastic writer, her character developments are beautiful, and if I could enter the world of The Night Circus in any capacity again, I would go willingly and happily.