Monday, December 23, 2013

Book Review - The Night Circus

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

Fictional books on the circus are fast becoming a favourite of mine. There is something about the mystique of the subject matter, the unknown. Everyone wants to believe there is more going on behind the scenes of the colourful tents and the spectacular performances. I’ve previously loved, Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked this Way comes” and Robert Jackson Bennett’s “the Troupe.” I hoped I would enjoy “the Night Circus” just as much.

The blurb:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The black sign, painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, reads:

Opens at Nightfall

Closes at Dawn

As the sun disappears beyond the horizon, all over the tents small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears.

Le Cirque des Rêves

The Circus of Dreams.

Now the circus is open.

Now you may enter.

This book is nothing like I thought it would be. That is not meant as a negative, but sometimes you get it in your head as what a book is going to be like and then it completely surprises you.”The Night Circus,” does just that.

The circus in this book is more of a stage for a grander game to be played out. Celia and Marco are two children that have been mentored since childhood to participate in a contest they do not truly understand. They are both brought up very differently, but their objectives are the same: one day they will enter the contest and they are under enormous pressure to win.

The rules of the game are never truly clear, which works in the books favour. As Celia and Marco try to figure out what is going on, so does the reader. It seems that the game is to outdo the opponent with true magic and illusions until one is unable to compete anymore.
That is all there is to the main plot really, which is a shame, as something with a bit more depth would have elevated the book in my eyes. So are the characters memorable?

Celia is the more prominent character of the book. She is easy to root for as she is forced into the game by her father, Hector. Her childhood years are perhaps the most intriguing, but as a character she is pretty one dimensional.

Likewise the same could be said about Marco. Marco takes more of a backstage role in the circus but it is a role of great importance.

There are a host of other characters such as the founders of the circus who meet at their midnight feasts at regular intervals. The scenes involving this company of oddballs comprise the more interesting aspects of the novel as none of them can escape the lure of what they have created.
The other characters worth mentioning are Bailey, who is a young boy whose fate becomes entwined with that of the circus, a contortionist and a clock maker who becomes the founder of the reveurs – a devoted following of the circus.

Based on the plot and characters above, this would just be an average read. However, it is the circus that really shines. As seen through Bailey’s eyes the circus is truly a place of wonder. The tents created by the Marco and Celia are astounding, from the Ice garden to the cloud maze. The basic plot and characters are irrelevant when one is reading about such a beautifully described place.
The ending of the book is satisfactory if nothing special. When there the plot is light and a little confusing, you can’t expect much else.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. As a story it did not grab me in the way other circus tales have, but the description of the circus itself and just reading about it, is fascinating.

My rating: 8.1