The circus arrive without warning
No announcements precede it…
It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
When I come across a book like this, I feel like I’ve been too favourable and too generous in every other review I have written. This is the best book I have read since The Time Traveller’s Wife, and I first read that almost ten years ago. If you loved The Time Traveller’s Wife, I am almost certain that you will love this just as much.
The Night Circus seemed to sneak out with little hype. Unlike books like The Time Traveller’s Wife, Gone Girl and The Fault In Our Stars, it arrived without warning – no announcements preceded it (see what I did there?). This book completely passed me by on its release, and it was only through a compulsive habit of browsing Amazon and Goodreads that I came across it. In case you haven’t guessed already, I’m very glad I discovered it.
The Night Circus is a multi-layered, complex and beautiful story which spans around three decades at the turn of the nineteenth century. It follows a travelling night-time circus, packed with the most wondrous acrobats, illusionists and animal-tamers that its patrons have ever experienced. But, unlike most circuses around, this bunch don’t rely on sleight of hand or complicated training techniques. This circus is touched with real magic.
The story really begins in 1873, when the famous magician Prospero the Enchanter receives an unexpected delivery – the daughter he didn’t know he had shows up on his doorstep. It quickly transpires that the girl, Celia, has some exceptional talents and Prospero has an unusual plan to put them to use.
Prospero enters Celia into a unique challenge, pitting her skills against against another young magician, Marco. The entire game is arranged by Prospero and a mysterious man in a grey suit, and the two children have no idea what they are entering into, or that it will bind them for life.
The Circus is the stage for their lifetime game, and what a brilliant stage is. I have to admit I am a sucker for a good circus, but Morgerstern captures the essence of it perfectly. Her pages are rich with detail about the scents, the sights, the hint of magic in the air, but without ever being overly descriptive. Every page I turned just made me more and more desperate to visit this enchanting place.
But this novel is by no means all magic and light. The challenge was set in stone from the very beginning, and it is something which cannot be escaped. As Celia and Marco’s lives become more intertwined, they realise that there are forces more powerful than their own at work, and they struggle to find a way to keep themselves and the circus alive.
The Night Circus blends light and dark; love with cruelty, as the epic battle plays out against the dazzling, enchanting backdrop of the magical circus. It shifts rapidly between time periods and character’s points of view, which is something I enjoyed but may not be for everyone. For me, I could almost pick up the book and read a chapter as a stand-alone piece and still be enchanted and enthralled at the incredible imagery and the magic in the tale.
This is a book which will stay on my bookshelf for a very long time. It’s depth and scope means that I believe I can go back to it time and time again, and still discover something new. And I can’t wait.