by Erin Morgenstern
Two magicians, Celia and Marco, have been locked in competition since childhood. Their venue is a mysterious circus that is open only at night. Le Cirque des Rêves is a magical world where enchantment and wonder can be found in every tent, seducing each visitor with unparalleled sights and sounds. But first and foremost, the circus is a battlefield and a showcase for the talents of the two magicians, who create ever-greater spectacles limited only by their will and imagination. As time goes by, Celia and Marco fall in love, but only one magician can win the contest.
It's rare to find a book so rich in atmosphere. Every description of Le Cirque makes it sound like the most wonderful, amazing, gothically-fabulous place in the world. The scent of popcorn in the air makes your mouth water; you can almost feel the cold of the glittering ice sculptures that never melt. Because the book is written in the third person present, it really tries to draw you in and make you fee like you're experiencing the circus, watching every act and running your fingers over every surface. And what a visual treat this circus would be! I would give this book five stars for the wonderful, dream-like descriptions that made me imagine the circus so clearly.
Trouble is, the characters aren't nearly as interesting. The romance between Celia and Marco is developed over a great distance; Celia travels with the circus as a performer while Marco manages its paperwork in an office in London. Since they rarely meet in person, their relationship – if you can even call it that! - hardly seems real. Many of the side characters are interested, but we don't see much of them. The plot is also fairly weak, and many of the questions I had about the circus and the magicians was never adequately explained. For example, we're told that the circus is a 'unique' venue for the magicians' competition, but not why it's considered special. Heck, little of the nature of the competition makes sense, and the final resolution of it was disappointing.
If The Night Circus were a movie, I'm pretty sure Tim Burton would direct it, and it would be crazy-beautiful and slightly terrifying. (I mean, can you imagine what he'd do with a black-and-white circus that pops up magically all around the world?) It's such an enchanting idea. And it's a very visual book. I imagine it would appeal a great deal to fans of gothic fashion and steampunk pseudo-Victoriana.
4 out of 5 stars
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