The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Publishing Date: September 2011
Genre: fantasy, gothic, historical fiction
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.
Two magical schools of philosophy are at war: the alchemical, charming, scholarly side versus the natural, inborn talent. If put in a competition with only one competitor left standing, which school of thought would win? Two magicians, Prospero and Alexander, pluck two young children, Celia and Marco, to battle. But everything changes once the venue is created for them: Le Cirque des Reves. The circus is not simply a place to compete; it becomes a part of Celia and Marco, another half of their beings, another limb, a soul itself. When Celia and Marco fall in love, the consequences for everyone involved could be disastrous.
I have never come across a book that has left me as enchanted as this. The whole experience was a dream. The luxurious language, the confectionery sweets, the lush descriptions, the stark contrast of black and white with splashes of red, the vibrancy of the characters, the fierce competition, the free-falling into the unknown. It was nothing short of magical.
Morgenstern incorporates fantasy with reality, turns a battle of the mind into action, gothic essence into a deeply timeless story. This is more than love. This is more than magic. It’s about all the lives in-between. She allows the reader to jump across countries and oceans, from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, from one perspective to another. We’re in the minds of Widget and Poppet, the mysterious and talented circus twins; of Chandresh, the planner and financial backing to the circus; of Isobel, a tarot-reader in love with Marco and in control of the perfect balance of the circus; of Tsukiko, the contortionist who subtly points out the mysterious idiosyncrasies of the environment. We experience each and every tent with Bailey and Friedrick, attendees and reveurs, and gaze at the still human statue Snow Queen, wander the Ice Garden, sit in awe watching the illusionist. And, of course, the heart-wrenching and exhilarating journey Marco and Celia take to overcome the rules of the challenge and find a way to be together.
An absolutely enchanting piece of work that I will read time and time again!
Edit: I wrote this a few weeks ago and apparently it never published! So here you go!