This was quite simply a stunning read. It wasn't quite what I expected, but it reminded me of some of Clive Barker's more magical tales, and that's no bad thing. It has an interesting style to it. Most of the story is told in third person present tense, which is a tricky perspective to get right in my experience. The author writes it with confidence and it does add a sense of immediacy to the writing. An even riskier approach were the second person sections. I've rarely seen this used with success outside of the choose your own adventure style books, but again it works well in the context, as if you're visiting the circus.
In many ways the circus itself is the star of the show. It's more than a collection of acts and oddities. It has a magical life of its own, and the imagination demonstrated here is enchanting in itself. It's such a grand experiment that I wish I could visit it in real life!
The meat of the plot is in the form of a contest between two young students of the magical arts. These are the magic of manipulation and illusion, and more than simple conjuring tricks. This aspect really shines in the story, and the contrast of the two approaches makes for a different style of conflict.
There's a strong blend of characters here, they all bring something unique to the story. Although here is the book's only real weak spot for me. They're well described, and their interactions finely balanced, but they didn't feel as developed as they could be. For me the most interesting were the ones on the periphery of the circus.
Overall though this a finely written magical story, an enchanting tale I enjoyed reading. Highly recommended.
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.
Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves.
Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way--a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a "game" to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.
As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lives of all those involved--the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them--are swept up in a wake of spells and charms.
But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.
Both playful and seductive, The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern's spell-casting debut, is a mesmerizing love story for the ages.
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