The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

“In 1886 a mysterious travelling circus becomes an international sensation. Open only at night, constructed entirely in black and white, the Cirque des Rêves delights all who wander its circular paths and warm themselves at its bonfire. The circus seems almost to cast a spell over its aficionados, who call themselves the rêveurs – the dreamers. And who is the sinister man in the grey suit who watches over it all? Behind the scenes a dangerous game is being played out by two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who, at the behest of their masters, are forced to test the very limits of the imagination – and of love.”

Upon finishing this book, the only thing I can say is… Wow. This book is another of those rare finds; one that grips you instantly and is just perfect for your personal reading style. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading The Night Circus, but it wasn’t this – this enchanting world described with beautiful imagery and intricate attention to detail, inhabited by a host of characters that Erin Morgenstern creates seamlessly and beautifully. I want to be friends with Celia. I think I could get along well with Tsukiko. As for Marco – well, I think it’s literary love.

Morgenstern has crafted a clever and original story that keeps you guessing, right up until the end. Our story is dominated by two characters, Celia and Marco, who have been set up as opponents from a very early age by their tutors (and in Celia’s case, father as well) to fight one another in a battle of magic. The venue is the mysterious and beautiful black and white Cirque des Rêves – although the proprietor, Chandresh Lefevre, has no idea about any of this. He thinks that this band of magicians, illusionists and contortionists are brilliant at their job, when in fact they have to make their acts more realistic so that their audiences will believe that these feats are possible. As they grow older and life gets more complicated, the magic that they weave within and over the circus begins to wear thin and it becomes clear to all of the other patrons that something isn’t right. They aren’t aware of this game – or the fact that they are merely pawns in the battle. Celia and Marco, who have long been adding their own tents and signatures to the circus for each other, have to accept that fact that they have fallen in love, in the face of the fact that one of them has to destroy the other for the battle to be won. At chapter intervals, Erin cleverly inserts snippets of Fredrick Thiessen’s articles – a clockmaker who makes the circus’ timepiece and falls in love with it, following it around with such dedication that he inspires a group of similarly enthusiastic people who call themselves rêveurs. Beautiful designed pages also intersperse the book.

The costumes, the tents, the delicious food, the explosions of colour concealed behind the black and white striped materials of the circus – all this is created with beautiful delicacy by Morgenstern. Gorgeous imagery and evocative language complete the masterpiece that is The Night Circus. An absolute, spellbinding, must-read.

Many thanks to Harvill Secker for the review copy.

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