Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publication Date: September 13, 2011
Format: Paperback, 516 Pages
ISBN-10: 0307744434 (Random House)
ISBN-13: 978-0307744432 (Random House)
Reviewed by: Kayla
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 both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.
Quick & Dirty: Morganstern delves deep into a world of mystery and intrigue, where contortionists can fit into glass boxes, kittens can flip through hoops and an illusionist can do more than just perform.
Opening Sentence: The circus arrives without warning.
Want a plot as complex as a Charles Dickens novel and as creative as Shakespeare? Look no further than Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. This magical black and white circus appears at random around the world and only opens at night. But what may seem like a place for entertainment is really a competition arena for two young magicians, Celia and Marco. Each were chosen by a teacher at very young age and were taught two separate techniques on how to manipulate their surroundings. When the time came for the game to start, neither opponent knew who the other was. By accident or by fate, the two meet at a Midnight Dinner (the original planning sessions held by the circus’s owner) and fall in love throughout the years while competing against each other. But as the circus grows, other events that could not have been foreseen when the teachers started the competition set off a chain reaction, leading to the possible demise of Celia, Marco, the participants and even the circus itself. Forbidden, innocent and compassionate love combine into a complex and insightful story of manipulation and control, devotion and deceit, and insight and obscurity. Think you know the circus? Guess again.
To completely understand my adoration of this book, you must understand that at the same time I was reading this book, I was also reading Othello, The Moor of Venice by Shakespeare in my English class. Now you might think: what does a circus and a Turkish/Venetian war have in common? My answer: absolutely nothing. But the characters and themes in both The Night Circus and Othello are alike in a lot of ways. Both center around manipulation. Both have forbidden love (okay so that might be stretching it in Othello, but hey, Desdemona wasn’t supposed to marry Othello). Both have ingenious plots that are so thoroughly thought out, it makes me want to start writing my own book. Since the play and novel were so much alike, I started to love both — even though I have never been a fan of Shakespeare and was never a fan of circuses either. So thank you Morgenstern for opening my eyes to other literature.
Now on to the good stuff: THE CHARACTERS!!! Love. Them. To. Pieces. There are three story lines in this book: yourself walking through the circus, Celia and Marco’s competition and Bailey and Poppet and Widget. I was not particularly enthused by the (would you call it a second person? Or one and a half person?) point of view. Granted, it is a nice introduction and ties in nicely with the book, but during the middle of the book it takes away from the anticipation and suspense of the other character arcs. But I see how it’s important to the rest of the book, so it makes it a quick read. Celia and Marco’s character arcs are impeccable. The only complaint I have is that we don’t get to see their relationship develop in the novel. Each chapter is given a date and it usually jumps around from year to year (depending on which point of view the story’s in), so Celia and Marco’s relationship goes from acknowledging each other to skip a few years later and they’re deeply in love. It threw me off when I read it so I had to go back and read to see if I missed a chapter or something. Note to anyone who reads this: watch the dates. They may seem inconsequential in the beginning but they become more important toward the middle. Poppet and Widget are twins that were born just before midnight and just after midnight on opening night of the circus. Widget can see the past and Poppet can see the future. Bailey on the other hand, is just a random farm boy who loves the circus and just happens to be in the right place at the right time. At first when Bailey is first introduced, I didn’t like him. He was a naive little kid that got bullied by his older sister (who is a total jerk) into breaking into the circus during the day. But by the end of the book, he was probably one of my favorite characters. He is so driven from all angles from people who want to choose his future for him that he chooses to break off and do his own thing. That’s something I appreciate Morgenstern for adding because I too am bombarded with choices and it’s hard to decide what I should do. (If only a magical circus appeared in my backyard…)
There’s so much more I could say on this book, but I’m pretty sure I’m over my word limit (oops!) So my only suggestion is BUY THIS BOOK. You won’t regret it.
“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 going on, they overlap 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? Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such great lengths as to dress as a grandmother to toy with its prey.”
Widget sips his glass of wine, considering the words before he replies.
“But wouldn’t that mean there were never any simple tales at all?” he asks.
The man in grey shrugs, then lifts the bottle of wine from the table to refill his own glass.
“That is a complicated matter. The heart of a tale and the ideas behind it are simple. Time has altered and condensed their nuances, made them more than a story, greater than the sums of their parts. But that requires time. The truest of tales require time and familiarity to become what they are.”
FTC Advisory: Doubleday/Random House provided me with a copy of The Night Circus. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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