- Page Count: 387
- Release Date: September 13, 2011
- My Rating: 3.5 stars
Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.
Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves. Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way–a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a “game” to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, 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.
As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lives of all those involved–the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them–are swept up in a wake of spells and charms.
But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.
Both playful and seductive, The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern’s spell-casting debut, is a mesmerizing love story for the ages.
The writing here was straight up gorgeous, but the story was kind of mysterious and hard to pick out at times. I really loved Bailey, Poppet, & Widget and the aesthetic of the circus! The circus itself felt like the main character, which was really neat. But it was also rather elusive at times… I couldn’t even pinpoint what exactly the whole competition was until about 70% because it was unclear what the rules were or what they were even competing for:
I confess, I don’t fully understand the point, even after all this time.”
“Nor do I. I suspect calling it a challenge or a game is not entirely accurate. I’ve come to think of it more as a dual exhibition.”
So basically there were a lot of great quotes, fun scenes, and really creative bits spread throughout a story that was otherwise not terribly exciting or fast-paced. So I guess you have to be in the right mood for a slow and mysterious story instead.
But ok this comparison was inevitable:
It’s kind of hilarious how similar this book is to The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye. Like not just the general plot or the relationships of the enchanters to their mentors, but even small details like the love square, how they can go into the guy’s dreamscapes, the dance, people turning into mist, how the girl loves snow/ice, and the points in the plot where she gets her fortune told or goes to his flat.
I know they’re totally different books, but seeing how The Crown’s Game “retold” this story really highlighted what I wish this book would’ve been. The Crown’s Game set up the rules and what the game actually was right from the beginning, so the story was instantly more driven, focused, and fun. It was clear why one enchanter needed to die. It was clear what each of their moves were and what was going on. In The Night Circus they’re mostly doing magic tricks in a tent off-screen to “sustain” the circus and the story checks in with them every few years. Definitely not as exciting. I just cared about the characters in The Crown’s Game SO much more that it was kind of hard to take this book for what it was without comparing.
The Night Circus was still a really imaginative, original, gorgeous read, though! I think I would’ve loved it more if I had read it before The Crown’s Game. I wasn’t terribly into the first half, but LOVED the last 10%.
But if you’re only going to read one story about two enchanters who have to compete to the death but end up falling in love, I’d go with The Crown’s Game instead. Because fantasy Russia.