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.
“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”
I will admit that after hearing so much praise and love for The Night Circus, I was hesitant to read it for a rather silly reason: I’m not quite fond of circuses. I don’t know how to explain it, but I have never understood the appeal. Despite that, I found The Night Circus to be an enchanting read.
The praises for the prose are not overblown: the flowery, descriptive prose in The Night Circus were a joy to read. It felt so decadent, luxurious- something to be slowly savored, not rushed through. The writing was weighty and magical and the author sets the atmosphere incredibly well. It’s almost poetic and lyrical, the way it’s written. The circus is officially named Le Cirque Des Reves- or The Circus of Dreams. A fitting name considering that it has this dreamlike quality to it.
It also makes use of alternating timelines which I think the author did well. There are several points in the story where the author switches point of views and pov styles, but somehow, she managed to make it work.
“The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones.”
Plot-wise, I did find the magical competition aspect compelling and I liked the way it ended. It doesn’t feel like a cop-out and it felt like there were definitely consequences to Marco and Celia’s actions, which I really enjoyed. The origins of the magical competition between their two mentors remained a mystery all throughout and not a lot was explained, and I don’t really think the explanations were necessary. The mystery added to the book’s atmosphere and I enjoyed it even without them.
At its core however, this is a love story. This is Celia and Marco’s story and it unfolds over several years- decades even. I really liked that it tells the story over the years because it doesn’t feel rushed that way and it allows you to feel the depth and intensity of their love. I liked how they used the competition and the circus as a way to essentially show their love for one another because you can really see how real and genuine it was.
“The most difficult thing to read is time. Maybe because it changes so many things.”
That said, I really didn’t like how Marco treated Isobel. Like I get that his competition with Celia can get so intense and they couldn’t help but fall in love, but honestly, he should have done better, treated her better. Isobel didn’t deserve to be treated that way.
There’s also a different plot involving a boy named Bailey and twins Poppet and Widget who were born in The Night Circus. At first it isn’t quite clear how they fit into the overall story but Erin Morgenstern does tie in their story to Celia and Marco’s eventually. And I liked seeing the circus in Bailey’s perspective mainly because he was at first an outsider to the circus and we get to explore it through his point of view.
There’s a large and varied cast of characters in The Night Circus and I liked reading about all of them- from the original group who created the circus, to the people who make up the circus, and to the Rêveurs- its passionate devotees. One can really get to see how Le Cirque des Reves has touched the lives of many people.
Overall, I highly recommend The Night Circus. It’s a rich, atmospheric romantic fantasy that completely stands on its own and will blow you away with its beautiful prose and lovable cast of characters.