Release Date: 24th May 2012
Publisher: Vintage Books
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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.
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 can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
Before we talk about anything else I’d just like to mention how much I like the opening lines of this novel. Because what a good everything tbh. So yeah, this book. It’s kind of like falling into a dream? Morgenstern’s lush, evocative prose allows the setting of this of this book to be so immersive; I honestly think her prose and the brilliant, dreamlike imagery in this book are its strongest features.
There are two main characters but the story doesn’t start and end with them – there are many different characters who all play a part in the story. I liked that tbh because some of the supporting characters, such as Bailey, were more interesting than the sometimes tedious Celia and Marco. I enjoyed learning about these vastly different, always interesting cast of characters. However, Celia and Marco are arguably two of the weakest characters in the novel which is unfortunate really because they remain the central focus of the story. Pitted against each other in a ~duel that spans years, the two use the circus first as a way to compete and then increasingly as a way to interact with each other. Like, don’t get me wrong, I did actually quite like the romance but it was still very flat in places. Celia and Marco slot easily into that tragic, tropey Romeo & Juliet kind of love story and that just doesn’t hold my interest for very long.
The Circus, though. Morgenstern creates the kind of circus that can only exist in dreams – a kind of maze with new tents added at a whim, each as fantastical as the one before – the forest of ice, acrobats who don’t need safety nets to perform with an unimaginable grace, the illusionist…the list goes on. I loved the wonder of the circus just kind of appearing overnight in different locations across the world, bringing in crowds and admirers who use a network of connections just to follow the route and experience the circus over and over again. In this, Morgenstern easily excels – I would go to that circus so much. I loved the story behind the creation of the circus, the sheer magic of it and the darker aspects of it that are hinted at and slowly built upon. This aspect of this novel was just so cool, I cannot emphasize this enough.
However in some pretty important ways this book falls short of expectations. First and foremost, ignore the promises in the blurb. Yes, there is a competition between Marco and Celia but no, it is never at any point interesting or tense. Marco and Celia spend basically the whole novel indifferent about the duel they’re supposedly in, and if they didn’t care, neither did I. The competition is at best bland and at worst utterly tedious, taking away from the far better parts of the book. As a consequence there just isn’t much of a plot. There’s no real conflict so the narrative often stagnates. The love story is sweet but again doesn’t draw you in. It is the supporting characters and their stories that really provide the interesting aspects of the novel and not enough time is spent with them unfortunately. It’s for this reason that I found my interest waning. This is a slow, dreamy book and if you like that kind of thing definitely give The Night Circus a go, but if you like your stories to have a bit more going on this book might end up disappointing you.
Page Count: 502