Come one, come all! Wander the Cloud Maze. Delight in the Ice Garden. Ride the amazing Carousel. Have your fortune told. Marvel at the tattooed contortionist. Enjoy the magical creation that is The Night Circus! Only open from dusk to dawn, with every visible surface colored black, white and gray, this amazing venue truly lives up to its proper name, Le Cirque des Rêves or The Circus of Dreams.
The circus was created to serve as a forum for a magical competition to which young magicians Celia and Marco were bound by their teachers while still children. But just as the circus tents spread outward in a series of spiraling circles, so too does the circus’s impact on the people drawn into its orbit. As Celia and Marco fall in love, not realizing that the game is in fact a duel in which only one can be left standing, the circus takes on a life of its own.
Morgenstern first draws us into the circus as spectators before going back to explore the show’s origins. Chapters are brief, alternating between episodes in the lives of Celia, Marco and other key characters. While these sections do move freely back and forth through time, attention to the clear headings at the beginning of each enables the reader to follow the action without difficulty.
The Night Circus is an intricately layered story. On the surface, the book is about the circus itself. The magicians, Celia and Marco, are the main characters. But fascinating secondary characters add depth and complexity to the narrative – from Poppet and Widget, twins whose lives are forever altered by being born on the circus’s opening night to Herr Thiessen, the German clockmaker who partners with Celia and Marco to create new attractions, and Bailey, the young boy who is strangely drawn to the circus and its people.
Usually when I fall in love with a book, I can’t put it down. But with The Night Circus, my reaction was closer to that of the “rêveurs” in the book. These dreamers are fans who can’t bear to have the circus end. Dressed distinctively in the colors of the circus with a splash of red, they follow the circus as it moves so they can continue to revisit the magic. I found myself reading this book slowly, in small chunks, because I could not bear for it to end. I suspect that I will be drawn to re-read this magical book so that I, too, can revisit the spectacle that is Le Cirque des Rêves.
This review was originally published on the Central Rappahannock Regional Library’s Shelf Life blog.