Celia and Marco are magicians – and not theslight-of-hand, fancy tricks kind. Not even the Harry Potter wizarding-school-alternate-society kind. They practice real magic in the real world (OK, in a book that wants us to think it is the real, Victorian era world) and they must compete their entire lives to prove who is most skilled. The prize is life.
Their battleground is the Cirque des Rêves. The Night Circus. And the competition to the death becomes far more complicated when they fall in love.
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
The Night Circus is one of the more unique of the last decade’s deluge of books about magic. Based on a dark premise, it still manages to be light and hopeful. None of the circus talent or management really know what kind of magic is holding the circus together, only that they have something no one has had before. The Cirque des Rêves changes people, changes lives.
While Celia and Marco are the central characters, the story is told alternately from the point of view of many of the circuses performers, financiers and fans. In no particular order – jumping forward and backward through time quick enough to give you whiplash. A list of main characters is nearly impossible. Everyone qualifies, yet no one qualifies. And while this is one of the aspects of the book I enjoyed most while reading, it may also have been the aspect that kept the book from being truly great.
With so many characters and so many stories to tell, as a reader I bonded with no one. I found the central love story weak and cliché, and the conclusion too easy. I would just get wrapped up in a storyline, and we would jump back 20 years in time into something completely new. By the time we returned to a story again, I forgot the details or sometimes stopped caring at all.
I also felt like a minimum of five more chapters were necessary to justify the huge leaps taken to secure the future of the circus in the end.
With that caveat, I would recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of magic, fantasy and fun. Just be prepared for the jumpiness of the narrative.
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Doubleday; 1ST edition (September 13, 2011)