I don’t think that anything I can say will do justice to this incredible book. At once wise and strange, the story was like nothing I’ve ever read before, full of bewitchment and wonder, but also very heavily steeped in character creation of the best kind. The book was a melange of lots of different elements, from the very unusual and fierce aspects of the competition to the more emotional sides that dealt with loyalty, compassion and love. What I enjoyed most was the Morgenstern’s ability to conjure up the kinds of astonishing imagery that appeared behind each black and white tent flap in her beguiling circus of magic.
There was just so much going on in this tale, from the use of potent and involving storytelling to the intense color and object symbolism, to the impressive themes and ideas that lie quietly underneath it all. But the good news is that it can be read on several different levels, and a first cursory read will probably be just as satisfying as a re-read in the aims of picking it all apart and discovering the clues and cues that Morgenstern so cleverly sprinkles throughout. Each small aspect of this tale was interconnected beautifully with all of its larger parts, which gave the story a great feeling of cohesiveness and life. Because of it’s fairy tale like feel and scope, certain aspects felt wonderfully alive and orchestrated, while other smaller bits felt like they just fell into the perfect place organically. It was a clever mix of storytelling and visual description that seemed to defy any preconceived ideas that I had placed upon it, and it was also a story that keep me trapped within its pages until its final and very unexpected conclusion.
A lot of this tale was just dripping with magic and alchemy, and as such, it reminded me a little of a mix between the Harry Potter books and the story in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell. It wasn’t what I would call magical realism, as this world was almost completely overrun by magic and sorcery, so I would have to say it was more like a magical fable that openly portrayed characters that had one foot planted in the magical world, and one foot out. Some of the ways this magic was manifested was in the various exhibits at the circus, and let me tell you, a lot of these exhibits were wonderful, colorful, and strange. Glass bottles that captured pungent sensations and scenes through smell, labyrinths made of clouds that one could get lost in, and exotic ice gardens that were precise down to their smallest elements, Morgenstern captures them all with a heady mix of the dreamlike and surreal to share with her readers and characters alike, morphing the circus around and around the magicians who seek to outdo each other.
Though their prime focus began as outdoing one another, soon a strange fascination between the two springs up, which puts the competition and its irreversible results in jeopardy, for this is a competition that one of the magicians won’t walk away from. Though it seems that it’s all one big game of skill and exhibition, the realities are far grimmer and will lead to a heartbreaking choice that will forever change the circus and those who have grown to love it. There’s a stark inevitability here, and it shapes and forms all the people who have come build and love this particular circus, especially those who are using it to play their very dangerous and calculating game. Through the mesmerizing permutations of the tale, the fate of the magical circus is amplified across the hearts of its performers and creators, and it will take one stunning act of love and loyalty to undo the cataclysmic magic that both holds it together, and tears it apart.
This was a story told not only with fluidity and grace, but with an unerring sense of allurement and a perfectly crafted set of characters and narrative. It was not only a pleasure to read, but a pleasure to ponder over in many ways. While eagerly flipping through the pages, I came to feel a sense of excitement and wonder, almost as if I was seeing this strange and magical circus with my very own eyes. It’s rare to come across a book about enchantments that literally enchants the reader while they’re exploring it, but this is the feat that The Night Circus manages so brilliantly. A page turning feast for the senses, and very highly recommended.
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.