The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Synopsis:

The circus arrives at night, 11337018without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within nocturnal black and white striped tents awaits a unique experience, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stand awestruck as a tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and gaze in wonderment at an illusionist performing impossible feats of magic.

Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves. Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is underway–a contest between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in “a game,” in which each must use their powers of illusion to best the other. Unbeknownst to them, this game is a duel to the death, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

Review:

Amazing. It’s been a long time that there’s been a book I’m reluctant to finish because I don’t want to leave the world that’s been constructed for me. The language is rich and beautiful, dripping with symbolism and hidden meanings. I’m looking forward to rereading this book in six months or a year to uncover layers that I missed the first time through.

The synopsis didn’t exactly grab me. Nor did the characters, with a couple of exceptions, forcefully drag me into the story. Instead it was the world that captivated me. I would love to visit this circus, to marvel at its wonders and partake in its delights. When I was ushered out of the front gate at the end of the book it felt like a true loss… I’ll be back, but sadly I can only retrace my previous steps.

If you like immersive worlds, rich prose, themes and symbolism you can really sink into, and being led along even though you’re not exactly sure where you’ll end up, this is the perfect book for you. If you are curious and still have your sense of wonder you will lose yourself in its pages. If you like an A to C through B plot and have little patience for nuance, don’t bother.

Some notes on the medium – I read this as an e-book but I desperately wish I could have read a physical version instead. The timeline does some interesting things and I found myself turning to past chapters to compare dates quite a bit. There are also some foreshadowing passages that I liked rereading once the corresponding section was over… both of these were hard to do on an e-reader. There were also many times I would see a reference and think, “Oh, I saw this before!” but grew frustrated before I could find it again. If you have a choice, read the real thing.

The reader’s guide actually has some great questions in it – if you’re like me and just can’t let the world go it provides interesting food for thought.

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