Author: Erin Morgenstern
Star Rating: 5/5
Date Read: August 12th to 14th, 2014
Read Count: 1
Magical and mysterious, The Night Circus has just become one of my favourite reads this year. The Nigh Circus appears with no announcement in the middle of the night, and is open from nightfall until dawn for the duration of its stay. It is not your conventional circus. There are multiple black and white striped tents, each home to a different performance, such as the acrobats. Or you can wander the paths between the tents and watch the performers in the open, who need no tent, like the contortionist. See the Wishing Tree, walk through the Ice Garden, and be caught up in a world so surreal that when you step outside the gates at dawn, you won’t be sure which world is real.
The circus is just a façade, however, for a competition between two magicians or illusionists or manipulators, whatever they like to be called. Each chooses an apprentice who they ready for ‘the game’. The ‘game’ is vague and even its players don’t understand, or aren’t told, the rules. What starts out as something fun and challenging for the two brilliant students, Celia and Marco, becomes frustrating and even dangerous, as the whole circus is balanced on the two of them.
I was captivated by this book from the first page. It is something truly wonderful and it felt like it could go on forever and I would never get sick of it. The story is told in alternating perspectives between the years of its conception and further on in the future until the two storylines meet up. It was surprisingly easy to keep the two straight and I enjoyed making connections between past and future, although when it came to predicting the outcome I never even gave it a thought. As well as alternating timelines, characters were also alternated and by the end there were quite a few that we would follow, however it never felt like there were too many to keep track of. Morgenstern’s storytelling ensured that we only hear or saw what was most relevant and she kept everything running smoothly, much like the circus itself.
With so many characters to choose from, it’s difficult to pick a favourite as I feel they all bring something to the story. As well as the developing love story, somewhat agonising to read, there was also a coming-of-age story (who doesn’t love one of those!) and the magical tale of the circus itself – although those involved would instantly say ‘it’s not magic!’, but it feels like it. There are the ties of family, friendship and love which hold the circus together as well as the illusions and manipulations of the world around the circus. It all makes for a fantastic read and I guarantee you, by the end you will wish that it exists, just so you can experience what Morgenstern has so eloquently put into words.
However, I can see why some people have become frustrated while reading as it is a slow moving plot over a number of years. While I enjoyed the stunning imagery and scene setting, not everyone will. But I found it to be a truly enchanting book that I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.