The Night Circus

The circus arrives without warning.

Well, that’s not completely true. I was given a warning about how incredibly good this book is! The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, was recommended to me by the same person who recommended A Discovery of Witches, so needless to say, I ordered this book straight away. This was such a unique read that I’m still finding my thoughts difficult to describe.

Le Cirque des Rêves, The Circus of Dreams, functions as the venue for two dueling magicians who are forced to compete in an undefined game. As children, Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair are bound and begin training for this game. They grow up not knowing who their opponent is, until one day, when Celia auditions as an illusionist for the circus. Marco is the proprietor’s assistant and recognizes Celia right off. But as Marco is not as directly involved in the circus, it takes Celia more time to discover that he is her opponent. However, the circus is not a contained area and it involves other performers, those behind the scenes, and countless spectators. Both Celia and Marco are responsible for holding the circus together, and in a way, the family formed by the circus.

As Celia and Marco fall in love, they want the game to be concluded so that they can truly be together. But neither one of them suspects that the only ending the game will have is when one of them ceases to endure. Then lines become blurred and winning seems like the ultimate loss. Celia cannot bear imagining a world without Marco, so she begins devising a way of taking herself out of the game. Her plans do not come to fruition, however, much to the credit of another circus performer, who is a bit concerned about how the circus will continue to function without Celia’s abilities and the way she holds it all together.

I will not say whether the ending is a typical happy or sad one. But it was perfect.

The book itself is written is present tense, which I only found distracting in the beginning. After becoming immersed in the story, it only added to its charm. Also, interspersed between sections and chapters are blurbs written in second person, describing what you would see and feel and hear and smell at the circus.

The timeline of the circus skips effortlessly to past and present, telling the story of Celia, Marco, and the circus, as well as the story of Bailey, a young man who begins as a spectator, but becomes enamored with the circus. Towards the end, the timelines converge, as do the stories of the characters, only to be woven into the larger tapestry of the circus.

Not always straight forward, but always enchanting and captivating, The Night Circus has earned a coveted spot on my bookshelf. I very much look forward to reading the future works of this author.