After recently completing The Luminaries, I was eager for another gripping and well-written novel to get me through those night-time feeds with baby. The Night Circus was on my list of books to read, but I have no idea where I heard about it. The novel is kind of a cross between The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, but written for adults. The story takes for granted that magic exists and as such is rooted in the genre of magical realism (a genre I came to love via the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude). It is dark – the two main characters have been implicated in a kind of duel, in which only one can survive – but also beautiful. The circus is a wildly imaginative place with a surreal quality about it: everything is black and white and the various tents themselves house a range of acts from the more usual acrobats, fortune tellers, and contortionists, to the more unexpected: an ice garden, acrobatic kittens, and my personal favourite, the cloud maze (a vertical maze constructed of floating cloud-like bubbles that you can climb onto). Coupled with the black and white colour scheme, these latter tents lend that dreamlike quality to the circus; something that I really appreciated during the wee hours. You get to experience the circus from several points of view: that of a teenaged boy who becomes a regular visitor, several of the performers, and those who work behind the scenes. However the two main characters are the duellers and they have a complicated relationship, as the reader is able to anticipate pretty early on. If I had one complaint about the novel it would be that the characters themselves aren’t very well developed and their dialogue is somewhat stilted. They come across as two-dimensional but then in some respects this adds to that surreal nature of the novel. While the story is interesting, particularly as it is told from several perspectives, the ambiance and imaginative nature of the novel is what I loved the best.
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern