Le Cirque des Rêves (Circus Of Dreams) is a circus like no other, appearing overnight with no announcements and leaving again one day with no warning. It is a place of wonder, with rare delights to challenge your senses and indulge your fantasies. Behind the scenes, the circus is also the setting for a magical contest between the apprentices of two master magicians. These apprentices, Celia and Marco, create wonder upon wonder to try and best the other, each using their own unique style of magic. As they work their magic, they change not just the circus but also the lives of those involved, but neither know how the contest will end. When they finally find out, they realise the price of victory may not be one they are willing to pay.
‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern is a story set in a circus, where tricks and real magic combine to make the most spectacular shows imaginable. It is a tale of wonder and excitement that will transport you to places from the furthest reaches of your dreams and leave you smiling with delight. There are tents filled with clouds, ice gardens, jars filled with memories, acrobats and much more. ‘The Night Circus’ is a book filled with images, sounds and scents that provide complete escapism from the real world. It is a book to get lost in, where at the end of every chapter you want to read just one more before you put it down.
There is a also a nice little plot running through it to hold it together, based primarily around Celia and Marco, the apprentice magicians whose magical contest is the reason for the existence of the circus. The story starts when they are young children, first learning their magic, even then knowing they were being trained for a big contest. The nature of the contest is kept quite vague, to both the reader and the contestants, but enough hints are given that you’ll probably work out the details of how the contest ends before it is revealed. There’s also quite a romantic love story involved here, but it is kept quite subtle for most of the book, so don’t be put off if that’s not your reading taste.
One of my favourite of the many secondary characters is a clockmaker, Herr Thiessen, who after designing a magnificent automaton for the circus, forms a kind of fan club for the circus. These fans, known as rêveurs, travel around following the circus and try to wear all black with a splash of red to make themselves known to others in their group. It is very believable that the circus would attract such a devoted band of followers and in a way it is nice to see the fans of the magical getting their own place in this book, not just the magicians.
There are other little plots, too, that intertwine around the magicians, the circus, its designers and its followers, so that we see brief snippets of how the magic affects different people. These little touches allow you to take a step back from the fantasy and think a little about how different people perceive the same thing and also contrasts the reality and magic in quite a nice way. It makes the fantastical elements seem even more incredible because of the mundane moments, whether that is the old lady knitting a scarf or the young man trying to decide whether to take over the family farm or become a lawyer. There are lots of these little details that each add to the rich world imagined around the circus.
‘The Night Circus’ is an incredible debut novel that contains everything I look for in a fantasy book – an immersive world, lots of imagination and pure escapism from reality. This is the first book in a long time that I know I will go back to and read again and again and I look forward to seeing where Morgenstern takes us next.
(pub: Vintage Books. 512 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-09955-479-0)
check out website: www.vintage-books.co.uk