The Night Circus

25 Nov

Today we’re doing something a little different. Last Monday, while killing time in the Hong Kong airport, I found this.

The Night Circus has been living on my wish-list ever since I played the tie-in game from Echo Bazaar* (I love those guys) and jumped to the top of the list after Erin Morgenstern’s NaNoWriMo pep talk. Unfortunately, Chengdu is not exactly known for its ready availability of English language books, let alone genre fiction. Amazon takes a month to ship and is rather costly. My parents have spent a fortune in care packages before – this is my third foray into living abroad – and frankly, the glamor has worn a little thin. I was pretty much resigned to waiting until I headed back to the States in another eight months before I could get my grubby little hands on a copy and then, lo and behold, there it was. I bought it on the spot, despite credit card shenanigans, and devoured it in less than two days.

I really enjoyed The Night Circus. It’s a Victorian-ish fantasy following two young magicians, the enchanter’s daughter Celia and the magician’s apprentice Marco. They have been bound into a contract by their mentors ever since they were children, a contest that has no defined rules or arena. However, most of the action is set around Le Cirque des Reves, the Circus of Dreams, which is not your average Barnum and Bailey’s ring show. “The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”

While there are the traditional acrobats and big cats, the Circus hides its actual magical acts in plain sight, illusionists and oracles working the Victorian stage magic circuit. Acts also include a cloud maze made of actual clouds, a room full of bottles that evoke very specific memories, a pool full of tears that lessens sorrow, a Wishing Tree that is always lit with the candles of the wishers, and a carousel where the mystical creatures you are riding might be real. The Circus is held to a strict black and while color palette – those wearing a splash of red are the reveurs, the dreamers who follow the circus across the globe.

The pair of magicians, Celia and Marco, can seem overwhelmed by the intensity of the setting. They are interesting, yes, but the Circus demands more attention. (Which is fitting, given how the story ends.)

In conclusion: I love love love it. It is whimsical and mysterious and terribly evocative and I want to be a reveur. I want to follow the Circus around the world wearing a black-and-white dress with a delicately knit red scarf like you have no idea. And I could do the knitting myself. (Maybe in December, when it does nothing but pour here in Chengdu and NaNo is over and finished with.) I may not have the magic to work in the circus, but I certainly could apply myself to eating popcorn and drinking hot cider and discussing the clockwork or the bonfire like a champ.

So, all in all, this was a good read that I highly recommend to anyone with the temperament or patience for Victorian era love stories, magic, mystery, and circus tomfoolery. Get the book, people. So says I.

Read an excerpt here. NPR interview with the author Erin Morgenstern here. Amazon here.

*If you are interested in either, I will send you an invite. I get points for every friend I recommend, but as a general rule I don’t spam anyone with invitations they do not want.

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2 Responses to “The Night Circus”

  1. Serena December 19, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    I’d love an invite. amazing book :)

    • Jane December 19, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

      It is, isn’t it? Unfortunately, I joined via Facebook and can only invite FB friends. You can join up on your own and play here. It’s quite fun.

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