Ok, y’all. You need to go to the bookstore or your local library and get this book. Like, now. The Night Circus is a little romantic, a little dark, and extremely magical. It’s the epitome of an enchanting read.
I’m usually very wary of any fiction book that is called a “must-read” and a “bestseller.” I’ve purchased quite a few books that haven’t even remotely lived up to their hype (I think the worst one was Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld, which I bought years ago when it was on everyone’s must-read list – I personally thought it was awful). I think that part of the issue with this is that often the bestseller tag and the rave reviews nudge me into reading something that I normally wouldn’t pick up off the shelf. However, between The Help, which I finally bought and read over Christmas 2012 (I know, I know, I was waaaay late on that one – I think the movie was out of theaters already) and The Night Circus, my faith in bestselling books is now restored.
To give you an idea of what The Night Circus is like, without any spoilers, here are my impressions. First, the plotline of this book could easily have been really cliched and overdone – in fact, I’ve picked up this book and read the plot description on the back every time I’ve been in a bookstore for at least the last 6 months, but I always put it back, because I was sure the plot would be too superficial and predictable. On my last trip, I figured that since I kept going back to the book, I might as well just read it – and that was an excellent decision.
The basic plot is that there are two magicians who are pitted against one another by their teachers. In the beginning, neither one really knows what is going on other than that they are competing against another indivdual. There are no set challenges in the competition, and the only rules are that they must act within the venue – Le Cirque des Reves (The Circus of Dreams) – and must not interefere with the other individual’s workings. As the magicians work to understand and outdo each other, they fall in love.
The narrative style and the author’s word choices are phenomenal. Right from the first 5 pages, there’s an aura of mystery in the writing, and the word choice is unusually poetic. The author really draws you into the story and keeps things moving forward at just the right pace so that you stay hooked. I had to ration myself to only reading a few chapters a night, and this book still only took me 3 days to finish. Had I picked it up on a weekend, I’m sure I would have finished it in one sitting. You really won’t understand just how amazing this is until you read it.
The only possible fault I found with the book was the author’s handling of the set-up for the resolution of the main character’s contest – I personally think it was a bit abrupt, and could have used a little more lead-up; not because the rest of the book didn’t hint at it, because it did, but because it felt a little anti-climactic by the time it happened – I felt like there should have been just a little more of a struggle to get the characters where they were going. That said, the ending is fabulous, and I like that she didn’t choose to take her characters in the expected direction (wow, describing this without giving too much away is hard!)
A slight non-sequitur: My Chemical Romance’s song Mama from their Black Parade album has always put me in mind of an old-fashioned circus – you know, the ones with fortune-tellers and bearded ladies and strong-men all in their own tents. I feel like that song is a punk rock version of this book. In fact, once I started reading this book, I had to go back and listen to it, particularly the intro. Do it, you’ll
see hear what I mean. 🙂
For readers who enjoyed this book, I would suggest checking out The Meaning of Night, by Michael Cox. It has a similar mysterious feel and vague plotline, but in a different setting (and without magic).
If anyone else has read The Night Circus, I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for other books!