While flicking through the isles of my humble library, searching for something to read over the spring school holidays, a book caught my wandering eye. The title, The Night Circus, was emblazoned in silver on a black background. Intrigued, I pulled the book from the shelf and read the blurb – I was immediately spellbound.
The story follows a circus called Le Cirque des Rêves (the Circus of Dreams) that travels from London, Prague and Montreal to Sydney, Australia. However, this is not your ordinary circus: open only under the sparkling blanket of stars at night, it adopts a unique monochromatic colour choice.
Featuring captivating illusionists, bold acrobats and marvellous moving statues, the fascinating Cloud Maze, enchanting Ice Garden and mysterious White Bonfire are all hidden secrets to be found. Glimmering chandeliers cascade around you, throwing dancing shadows along the walls. The sweet smell of delectable caramel apples and buttered popcorn wafts through the air, tempting your senses as you wander through the myriad tents.
But through all the charm and fascination, something dark and sinister lies underneath the compelling surface. Talented Celia, daughter of the illustrious Prospero the Enchanter, and skilled Marco, the sorcerer’s apprentice, compete in a game the parameters of which they themselves are unsure of. Though one fact remains clear – out of the two illusionists, only one winner can prevail.
But as the story unfolds, the two main characters inevitably grow closer. Complications arise as their bond influences the fallout of the game, the additional enigmatic characters within the circus and consequentially its entire existence.
As the story is written in third person, it allows author Erin Morgenstern to reveal the viewpoints of other characters, from Bailey, the farm-boy with big dreams, to the mysterious, fiery haired twins Poppet and Widget. It provides a window into their role and purpose in the circus. The many subplots begin separately, but eventually find themselves wildly intertwined with each other. The book arrives at a full circle, reaching a staggering ultimatum.
As the reader, you really do feel like one of the circus’ reveurs (dreamers in French), who are the dedicated attendees and followers of the circus. Donning themselves in black, white or grey, they then wear a striking red feature (such as a scarf.)
With exquisite descriptions and spectacular character developments, Morgenstern does a close to perfect job of transporting you to another world, truly encapsulating you into a dream. The underlying mystery and darker undercurrent reverberates throughout the story as you peel through each page in awe. I felt as if I was there, floating from character to character – feeling their love, pain, suffering, sacrifice and happiness.
The novel amplifies the definition of a dream: the only thing reminding you that it wasn’t is that the book is sitting there open on your bedside table. It leaves you wondering, what are we mistaking for magic and dismissing as trickery?
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, is published in Australia by Random House. It is available in paperback, hardback and e-book editions.