The book Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, is a fantastic read. Though it starts out slow and never really seems to speed up, it is so intricate and gripping that I could not put it down. Some books you read for the plot and others you may read for the writing. This one is read for the characters, who were so well designed they seem to take on a life of their own. There is really no clear antagonist or protagonist. Each character has shades of grey.
The plot starts when two powerful masters of magic decide to play a game. They each take a child, and teach them in their ways of illusion, manipulation, magic, with the intention of pitting them against each other after years of study to see how will win. The rules of the game are not clear, nor is how one wins. All Celia and Marco know is that they have to out-do some other unknown – each other – and have no choice in the matter.
Chandresh Christophe Lefèvre is a wealthy, powerful businessman.He comes up with an idea for a circus. But not a normal circus with clowns and elephants. A circus that opens only at night, with innumerable tents with fantastic sights to wow and awe the audience, tents where each is better than the last. A circus where dreams are a reality; Le Cirque des Rêves – the circus of dreams. Through the design of their mentors this circus is where Celia and Marco will do battle, where they will try to create spectacles that will outshine those of the other. The circus becomes intertwined in all that both Celia and Marco do, it’s fate, and the fate of everyone involved in it, determined only by who wins.
The book is absolutely incredible; completely magical and very detailed. The story mainly follows the lives of Marco and Celia. We see their masters set up the game and discuss the parameters, but the point of the game isn’t understood until the very end of the book.
We also get to see the circus form; we see the conception of the idea, where Chandresh is discussing ideas with a number of close friends he feels can contribute to the success of an idea he has had, through opening night when magical things happen. We see the circus achieve global fame, and the rise of the rêveurs, a world-wide group of fans whose love for the circus knows no bounds.
The book has a large cast of characters, and Erin Morgenstern writes with such skill that you care about each and every single one of them, even though there are more than the average story. The romance between Celia and Marco is beyond words, but I’ll try: It is intense and powerful, and really grabs the reader by the heart. It is beautiful, but at the same time sad. As the readers, we see them fall in love. The love is so magical that when they touch, the lights flicker and walls shake. Then we see them realize the deadly secret behind the competition. We know that one of the two must kill the other in order to win, but hope they find a way around the inevitible outcome.
In addition to Celia and Marco there are sub-plots that follow the lives of various other characters, whose stories are told outside the time of the circus. For example, after reading one chapter about the plans for the circus, and the next chapter will jump forward quite a few years and we see young Bailey, a farmer’s son, who has just visited the circus for the first time. It sounds like it might get confusing, but it never does. It’s a fantastic way of adding to the brilliance of the circus to the reader, making it seem as if it is in existence at all times – the past, the future, it’s all now where the circus is concerned. Also, with the sub-plots, we get to see the circus from the outside as well as from the inside. But these aren’t just random sub-plots, each one is integral to the story as a whole, even if you can’t see how at the beginning. The reach of the circus, of the story, is wide, and so many lives are affected by it.
Morgenstern is an exceptionally skilled writer. Throughout the novel, Morgenstern brings the reader in by allowing you to visit the circus; she leads you through various tents, shows you different sights, and makes the circus seem real, because you get to “see” it yourself. And the tents are simply magical! Morgenstern has imagination in bucketloads, and she pours it into this novel. I don’t want to go into what you’ll find in the interiors of the tents, because they are best discovered as you read, but this circus truly is a circus of dreams!
This book was incredible. It was one of the best books I’ve ever read. The way the book is written, it makes you wish that the circus were real. Everything from the cloud maze (a tent filled with clouds you can stand on) to the taste and smell of the caramel apples adds to the ambiance of the book. It is filled with magic, but it sounds so real that the reader feels as though it could be true.