“Stories have changed, my dear boy. 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 is 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?”
The Night Circus is a 2011 fantasy novel by Erin Morgenstern which tells the story of a circus which arrives without warning. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white-striped 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 of them can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.
Written in third-person and arranged with a nonlinear narrative that is written from multiple viewpoints, The Night Circus is a difficult book to get into as it takes a while to set the story up, but it very quickly entices you in with its rich prose and enchanting story.
Set over a decade, the story progresses slowly and is full of descriptions, which can sometimes be off-putting for a book that you want to get stuck into. It’s not always something that I get on with, but I loved it this time around, as you really get a sense of walking around the maze the circus for yourself.
With hints of The Prestige with its spell-binding but sometimes deceptive descriptions of magic and illusions, The Night Circus is a truly captivating read about a game that must be played, set mostly under the canvas of a mystical and colourful circus full of puzzling and stylised rooms that are decorated with seductive and daring performers.
But it is also a story about true love. Not a chick-flick kind of love that is about romance and emotions, but one that is shaped from a deep bond; a love that really is destined to happen. It’s not about the sly glances from across the room, but the literal sparks that fly when two hands touch; a love so dangerous that we don’t know the depths of its power.
The charming descriptions will really draw you into the elegant aesthetics and enigmatic and mystifying atmosphere, but it is the two characters at the centre of it all who are fated to come together in some significant way that will prevent you from being able to put this down.
I can’t wait to read it again soon to experience the powerfully effective magic of it all once more.