Summary from Amazon:
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.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.
The Night Circus was released 2 or 3 years back and since then I’ve been hearing how good it is. I’ve had my copy for several years now and I don’t know why I waited this long to finally crack my copy open because, man, this book is simply wonderful. The story is very captivating and the characters, including the supporting ones, were thoroughly fleshed out I wanted to be friends with them (yes, including the eccentric watchmaker and the innocent Bailey). I have been complaining about a sort of reading slump but I think I’m out of it now, thanks to this book.
When it comes to reading, I tend to shy away from fantasy and magic, except for a few ones that I instantly took to liking because of the way the characters were portrayed or the plot was developed. A couple of examples are The Sugar Queen, which is my favorite Sarah Addison Allen book so far, and the door-stopper that is Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell which I consider to be the only book about magic that I read and thoroughly enjoyed. (Wait, there’s the Game of Thrones series which I also like but I am not sure if this can be placed together with the two books I mentioned?)
Anyway, I think one (or the only?) reason why I initially hesitated to read this book was because the blurb speaks about a circus which, to my mind, is similar to magic and I thought that I might not enjoy it that much. But I was wrong. The opening sentence (“The circus arrives without warning.”) immediately gripped my attention and the first chapter is instantly intriguing as it puts the reader into the setting — right in front of the circus waiting for the gates to open. It was only sleep and work that kept me from reading the entire book in one sitting. Yes, no exaggerations. This book is simply beautiful.
The book is divided into 5 parts: Primordium, Illumination, Intersections, Incendiary, and Divination. I loved how the chapters are divided and sub-divided because they seem to give me a hint of what to anticipate in that part of the story. The competition between the two magicians is reminiscent of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell which I also loved. The non-linear timeline tended to confuse me at times but I still appreciate the beauty of such style. The story is told in the third person POV through an unnamed narrator and what I also liked about it is because I got to look at the story through the perspective of different characters. One thing that struck me about the narrative was the way some parts were told as if the narrator is talking directly to the reader. I feel like I, too, am a part of the circus. The circus was so vividly depicted, the imagery is very delectable to the senses — the black and white tents, the tour to different countries, and the magic. The magic is simply irresistible. This is probably my most visceral reading experience yet, I got goosebumps in several parts in the story (i.e. the snow tent, the bonfire).
The main theme of the story is actually love — young, romantic love — and the extent with which the main characters are capable of doing in order to save the one they love. The ending was bittersweet and justified, and even though I still have questions which were left unanswered, the mystery of the unknown has added to the magic of the story.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Night Circus. It is one of my favorite reads of the year, and to think that I am not even a fantasy fan. Such an entertaining but intelligent read, this book is. If I have to book-push (shove?) a book, this may be one. Very highly recommended.
“Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that…
Do not forget that… there are many kinds of magic, after all.”
My Rating: 5/5 stars.