The Circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it wasn’t.
The Circus arrives, and with it and air of mystery and intrigue that cannot be shaken from the second it opens at nightfall, and opens again at dawn. Everything is in monochrome, the tents arranged in circles each containing a magical, mystical attraction. At the centre of it all is a challenge, issued in childhood and expanded further than anyone could have imagined.
The first words draw you in, the possibility makes you stick around, the sheer wonder and need to know the end keeps you hanging on. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a fantastically complex and intriguing narrative, told from multiple perspectives. There is the perspective of the everyday person going around the circus (in an undisclosed time), there is the perspective of the magician Prospero in the earlier chapters, setting the Challenge in motion. Then it is predominantly the perspective of the two challengers, Ceila and Marco, and the perspective of the twins Poppet and Widget.
The story is about how the Circus came to be, how it begun and how it developed with more and more added each year until it is nearly unsustainable. Each chapter is a different point in time, some are from the perspective of an amazed reveller as they walk through the sights. Some are from the conception of the idea of the Circus. Some flit between the Before and the After. That can be a bit confusing sometimes, because the date is small and seemingly innocuous, but is worth taking note of. I think it adds to the mystery of the Circus. The circus is magical and complex and intriguing and was built as a challenge ground for two magical adolescents.
The details are vivid, and it leaves you hanging. It took me until about 3/4 of the way through the book to work out where it was heading, what the ending was going to be. There was lots of anger and resentment from these two young people caught up in the impossible challenge that was set them by two egotistical older men and I think those emotions were handled well in the narrative.
It is fundamentally a love story, but not just between characters. It is between the performers and their circus, their family. It is between the performers and the audience. It is between the audience and the circus. It is about the love for the circus and the love for magic and excitement. There were romance sub-plots, of course – but at the end of the night, the continuation of the circus was at the centre of all the love. It was an enchanting read.
I will do the comparison to Caraval that I read a few months back. Both are set in magical circuses but The Night Circus is better manipulated, more enchanting, more mysterious, more…more. It is more grown up, about more than just one character and their relationship with the circus but its about how the circus affects other people, and I loved it.
This is more than a whimsical read, it has passion and magic and I thoroughly enjoyed almost every page. I would definitely recommend.