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. (Summary via Amazon.com)
I don’t normally enjoy books just for the atmosphere. The Night Circus was a big exception. Everything about this book is gorgeous, from the monochromatic circus to the colorful dresses to the magical displays of power that Celia and Marco produce. This book is everything I wanted Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell to be–beautiful writing, delightful and magical atmosphere, and *actual things happening*!
Although, that being said, the plot was never really the focus of the story. Celia and Marco are bound to play a game which neither fully understands, and they have been trained from their youth to hone their magical powers. The circus is created as an arena in which these two can show their power, but it also becomes much more. The circus gets a life of its own, including lovers of the circus who follow it from city to city. The circus, which is only open at night (of course), contains incredible acts and experiences for the amazed attendees, and these are the real centerpiece of the novel. The game, high stakes as it may be, almost fades into the background at many points. And–I can’t believe I’m saying this–that’s a good thing. The atmosphere needs room to shine, and shine it does. Check this book out if, like me, you wanted Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell to be a bit more beautiful and a bit less lengthy.
Rating: Pretty Darn Good