The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
Le Cirque des Rêves offers an experience that is truly unique and remarkable. Every black and white tent holds a mystery, an extraordinary experience that will leave your senses wanting more. However, behind the scenes there is a competition, a challenge between two magicians that could affect the fate of both their lives and the circus itself.
It all starts with Prospero the Enchanter, an infamous magician best known for his illusions; illustrious acts that go beyond your normal magical tricks. But he is still struck dumb when one day he finds a young girl in his dressing room who could levitate objects with her mind. There was no doubt that she was his daughter.
Marco Alisdair lived quite an ordinary life in a London orphanage until a man in a grey suit chose him as his student and requested to leave with him with the promise of a great number of books.
Growing up, Celia and Marco are taught to manipulate the world and perform illusions concealed as normal magical tricks, which would later on prepare them for a magical contest set by their whimsical tutors. They have no knowledge of its rules or way of victory, but they do know that they are falling for each other and this could lead to complications no one could ever foresee.
“The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones.”
The Night Circus reads like Chandresh Christophe Lefèvres’ famous Midnight Dinners. Both have an air of nocturnal mystery to them and while you might recognize certain elements that make them what they are, the rest are shrouded in secrets. This is not an epic love story. Nor is it a heated battle between two powerful magicians. I’m still confused as to what it really is to be completely honest. All I can say is that it is a magical experience beyond even your wildest imagination!
The writing is one of the most powerful elements in this book. It is only the true magic of the written word that can induce such a sensory overload of savory smells, enchanting attractions that defy the laws of physics and the delicious taste of mulled cider. Morgensterns’ brilliant writing is induced with a poetical undertone that is able to evoke rich mesmerizing imagery, deliberately transporting you into a world full of mystery and magic. And while you can still feel your back resting against the couch and hear the rustle of the pages between your fingers, you can also feel the crisp air around you and smell the caramel wafting through the evening breeze. Various chapters written in the first person are also an effective way in allowing the reader to experience first hand the magic of the circus as if one is actually there. It’s like the author attempts to grant your wish to actually visit it by providing you with these short glimpses into the world she created. Erin Morgenstern is a wordsmith goddess. There’s no doubt about that.
“Like stepping into a fairy tale under a curtain of stars.”
The story has quite a slow start but it builds up gradually without it becoming tedious. I do have to point out however that the plot is quite slow-paced throughout the whole novel and while I understand those readers eager to see the ball rolling who might skip certain chapters, it is not really the best idea since every page is a puzzle piece that ultimately aids in forming the final picture. I did have the urge to skim over certain chapters just so I could revel in the interactions between Celia and Marco. Their relationship does take a lot of time to develop but somehow this made it even more realistic and also made those special moments between them even more memorable.
This book is truly a huge puzzle piece. The time differences in narration and the different perspectives all provided small pieces of information about the story, but never a complete picture. It was actually quite effective in increasing the tension and anticipation for forthcoming events that are only mentioned briefly. It was so beautiful the way all the different stories finally came together and everything started to make sense.
What can I say about the characters without drowning in my own tears? I loved each and every one of them, even those that at first glance might seem malicious. In contrast to the circus’s appearance, there is no definite black and white when it comes to the characters’ nature since each and every one of them is flawed in their own way. The author transcended the boundaries of good versus bad, giving the story a much more realistic feel to it.
“Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon . . . is not the dragon the hero of his own story?”
Celia is such a strong female character with an extremely resilient personality, albeit her occasional short-temperedness. She grew up with a deluge of abuse from her father, which she learnt to tune out or retaliate with her own vehement opinions when she grew up. She might appear eerie and almost transcendental in the way that she’s described, especially during her performances, but she is actually quite reserved and friendly, and very much attuned to the feelings and emotions of the people around her. Marco on the other hand is quite charming and uses this to his advantage many times, but his intentions were never malicious. However, he was quite irresponsible when it came to his relationship with Isabel, having led her on for so many years. While he made it quite obvious in his actions regarding his feelings towards her, I wished that he were honest with her from the start. I guess his lonely childhood didn’t really help for his future interactions, having spent all his life with books and lacking any sort of social guidance when he was growing up.
“I made a wish on this tree years ago,” Marco says.
“What did you wish for?” Bailey asks.
Marco leans forward and whispers in Bailey’s ear. “I wished for her.”
The romance between Celia and Marco is incredibly beautiful. It feels like their love for each other was there from the moment that they were bound together, and the years apart only made it grow and flourish even more. It was refreshing however to see their relationship develop gradually and not see them fall instantly into each other’s arms just because of who they are. I loved their covert glimpses at each other, the tents that they built as their form of silent communication and the palpable electrifying feeling every time they touched. Sometimes it felt like I was intruding because their romance felt so personal and unique. I’m not ashamed to say that I was swooning the whole time!
“I would have written you, myself, if I could put down in words everything I want to say to you. A sea of ink would not be enough.’
‘But you built me dreams instead.”
What’s beautiful about this book is that even the secondary characters are rich and complex. Widget and Poppet bring so much life to the circus, and not only because of their flaming red hair. Bailey, an ordinary teenager is just as significant as the main characters. And let’s not forget Herr Friedrick Thiessan, a maker of extraordinary clocks and writer of letters about the extraordinary. Everyone forms an integral part to the story one-way or another.
The Circus also reads like an actual character that stands out on it’s own. It is imbued with deep and complex magic, which makes it hard to fathom at times. This added a certain aura of mystery and charm to it, making it feel almost like a dream, hence its name. The circus is also what binds Celia and Marco together so in a way it represents a combination of their most profound desires. Their many tents and illusions were like a silent conversation between them, and we are the audience watching this beautiful interaction.
“You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Rêves and into the creeping dawn, that you felt more awake within the confines of the circus.
You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.”
I will never grow tired of this book and it’s promise of an otherworldly experience and this is the reason why I want everyone to read it. All of you have a chance to visit this enchanting circus, wander its paths that weave around the tents, smell the cider in the air, see the black and white colors long after you’ve fallen asleep, and allow your eyes to seek the words written in an elaborate sign after the smoke and sparks dissipate:
Le Cirque des Rêves
- Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
- Edition: Anchor Books, July 2012, Paperback
- Pages: 516
- Source: Book Depository