The book I want to talk about today is The Night Circus. I read most books on my Kindle, borrowing electronic copies from the library from the comfort of my bed while Erik sleeps :). I had never heard of The Night Circus, but I saw it under the Fiction category and who wouldn't be intrigued by that title? I downloaded it, and as is often the case for me, read just a few pages and could tell I was really going to like this book.
“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.” ― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus
The entire book has a magical quality weaved through it. I love stories that make every word count. It's what draws me to poetry, concise, beautiful words. Too many times, I read a book and think how little their lengthy descriptions do to serve the ultimate purpose of that passage. That doesn't mean I hate description. I love it when it's purposeful and beautiful. But most of the time I wonder if the author is just trying to impress us with his grasp of synonyms and adverbs. Who am I to talk though, really? I mean, if you read this blog, you know I'm the master of lengthy sentences and complete rambles and lots and lots of ands and repetition ;-) See what I did there?
Anyway, The Night Circus has none of these problems! It is as enchanting as you would hope a book titled The Night Circus would be.
“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.” ― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus
This story is about this amazing circus, unlike any other, that comes to town in the middle of the night. It's about the people who made this circus, the people who work in the circus, the people who fall in love with the circus. And there's magic. Real magic in our normal world. But not in a cheesy kind of way. All these things come together in very unpredictable ways. I hate spoilers so it's always hard for me to write the "Story" section without giving anything away. Just know that this story is big, detailed, and has this way of bringing all these separate stories into the bigger one. How did this amazing circus come to be? What were the costs? Why why why? And you'll find that mostly, it starts with just a few characters and some simple ideas.
“Stories have changed, my dear boy,” the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. “There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The quests lack clarity of goal or path. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognize for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep overlapping and blur, your story is part of your sister’s story is part of many other stories, and there in no telling where any of them may lead. Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act? Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such lengths as to dress as a grandmother to toy with its prey.” ― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus
(Pardon the super long quote, I just really liked all of it, so I didn't trim it down :).)
I'm one of those people who thinks things can be characters too, if they're seriously important to a story. If you ever watched Lost, I think it's safe to say the island was a character in itself. The same goes for this story. The circus is a character. It sort of takes on a life of its own. But if you want to be literal, this story is about two magicians and their respective protégés, Celia and Marco, who are in competition. Even the details of this competition are a little mysterious, but you learn enough to be intrigued by it. One of the most interesting parts of this competition is that Celia and Marco don't know they're in one. I found that I really liked Celia. From Celia's childhood, her father puts her through some physically grueling training to bring out the strength and capabilities of her magic. Marco's teacher has him constantly reading books and doing research to enhance his magical powers. It's an interesting contrast to watch these two characters grow up and become really cool, really conflicted magicians.
There are other characters. Quite a lot of them. And not just the quirky circus ones. One character is a boy in a nowhere town who just adores the circus, lives and breathes it. I really liked his outside perspective, since most of the stories come from within the circus by its entertainers or creators.
Who Will Like This Book?
“I prefer to remain unenlightened, to better appreciate the dark.” ― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus
Anyone who likes magic of course! There's a lot of irony about what's an illusion and what people enjoy so much about being fooled. Like I said before, this story is set in our world, but real magic is happening. They just use a mysterious circus to hide the real magic. All the guests think wow, what convincing illusions! When in fact, they're witnessing real magic. It's extremely clever. There is romance. There is a lot of mystery. It's written extremely well. Lots of clever lines and quotable, sweeping life statements. And it's definitely a page turner. I wanted to know what would happen next and I didn't know how it was all going to end. I find most stories generally predictable. Not this one. There were some things I assumed would happen, but I never knew how it would all end. It's actually a pretty spectacular ending, too.
This is one of those books that I really can't think of who wouldn't like it. It's fairly long, so that could be off putting to some. And if you're super invested in Celia and Marco, the drifting focus onto other characters might annoy you, but I doubt it. Give it a try. I told my mom about it and she loved it and is forcing her book club to read it now. It's definitely a book that gets you excited, I guess because there aren't too many stories about magical nighttime circuses and an epic battle between magicians. I really enjoyed it and even after months have gone by since I read it, I can still vividly picture certain scenes or parts of the circus because they just leave an impression. There's a wonderful scene where it rains and.... okay, you should just read this book ;)