Yesterday, it was an empty field in London, a patch of land in Australia, or a quiet street corner in New York City. Today? The most magnificent, unusual circus anyone has ever seen. The traveling Cirque de Reves is opened only from sundown to sun-up and is bursting with illusionists, contortionists, and tents filled with elements a human could almost believe is real magic. Little do they know, the circus doubles as the chessboard for a competition between two real magicians…
Rarely have I read a book that so thoroughly engulfed me in the world being created on the page. Now that I’ve closed the book for the last time, Le Cirque de Reves feels like a place I have visited, enjoyed, maybe even lived inside for a period of time. Morgenstern is so talented in creating a picture in her reader’s heads and I can’t tell you how much I wish the circus was real. From the Cloud Maze, where everything is fluffy and you can jump from many stories up without getting hurt, to the Wishing Tree, which is an immense black-barked tree covered in candles lit by circus guest’s wishes, each element that made up the setting of this book was spectacular. I love a book that uses the setting as more of a character than simply a place where action takes place, and this circus is the epitome of this.
I was also quite surprised by the tone of the entire novel. Always an undertone of darkness and sorcery, The Night Circus is foreboding, even while it is fun and breathtaking. It warns a reader that the magic within is serious and powerful, and I loved reading a book about magic that has this distinct lack of levity. Our two main characters, Celia and Marco, are very odd in their own ways and use the same magic so differently. Both of their perspectives were fun, but my favorite narrator was actually Bailey. Non-magical, yet so fundamental to the story, his hopefulness can’t help but seep into the reader. I was cheering for him and, by extension, Poppet and Widget, the entire time. (sequel or…?)
Considering this book is written towards a YA audience, I was delighted by the relevant and important themes. Much of the book acts as a warning about giving too much of yourself away (in this case, to the circus) . Celia’s relationship with the circus versus Marco’s relationship with the circus paints a contrasting story that ultimately imparts the lesson that the line between devoting yourself to someone versus being wholly dependent on a relationship is extremely thin. The way Celia interacts with the circus represents a toxic relationship that ultimately takes away her energy and personhood, while Marco is able to create an external source of energy for the circus to draw upon while keeping his own self independent. This is a lesson that is extremely important for a young readership who may be experiencing relationships and intense friendships that test this fragile balance. Ultimately there are quite a few takeaways wrapped up in the sheer entertainment of Morgenstern’s world and I enjoyed thinking about each of them.
My only two issues with the book was the very confusing timeline and the relationship between Marco and Celia. At times, it seemed to progress too fast and without enough explanation for my liking. It went from 0 to 100 on the love front, which can maybe be explained by their link, but I do wish it had progressed differently. Ultimately, it became clear that they were romantically involved, but I could have used more here.
Overall? A really magical book that brought me into a world I didn’t know I needed. Definitely recommend if you are a fantasy lite fan and like being completely immersed in a setting.
PUBLICATION DETAILS: 9781784871055; Anchor Books; 516 pp; July 2, 2010; Fiction -> Fantasy