23 February 2014
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Sometime in the late 1800s, two magicians once again make a wager. Each will train a young person of their choice in the craft, and at an unknown time and place, the two apprentices will match their skills in a competition, the details of which are very unclear. What is also unclear at this point are the stakes involved in this competition; although, the reader gets quite the sense of foreboding from the general aura of not-quite-nice emanating from the two elder magicians. So begins Celia and Marco's training... and romance.
The story is populated with memorable, distinctive characters. The twins Poppet and Widget, the mysterious contortionist Tsukiko, the simple yet powerful Isobel, all the constructors of the circus, the wonderfully wonderful clockmaker, and of course, the competitors Marco and Celia, all of the characters captured my imagination. I just wish I knew more of them.
While the characters in this novel - of which there are many - are some of the most unique, intriguing, complex, and eccentric characters I have ever read, what really steals the show in this novel is the setting: Le Cirque de Reves, the circus of dreams, a living stage for a competition between two gifted illusionists. The circus breathes with a life of its own and rarely have I read a novel where setting played such a vital, emotive role in the story.
This is not your typical circus. Both the magical and the non-magical elements are extraordinary, from the extravagent tents to the savory food to the clock at the entrance to the black and white theme. The circus appeals to all of the senses, and Morgenstern skillfully allows readers to experience these sensations through her masterful writing.
So many disparate elements are woven into this story: a double handful of plot lines, a whole mess of characters, a setting so complex I believe an entire book could be written just describing the various aspects. And yet, it is all put together so perfectly creating an absolutely breathtaking read.
I'm willing to bet I am one of the last to read this, but if by some chance, you have not yet had the opportunity to do so, go now. Go now and buy a copy - for this is one you will want to keep and revisit time and time again.