REVIEWS+

The Night Circus

Doubleday. 2011. 400p. ISBN 9780385534635. $26.95. F
COPY ISBN
Morgenstern's much-hyped debut—it was previewed by Barbara Hoffert in Prepub Alert, garnered a starred LJ review, and topped the September 2011 Indie Next List—is a generous and unexpected novel, fancifully articulated through a time-spanning plot that unfolds in connected interludes. Readers are welcomed into Le Cirque des Rêves-the Circus of Dreams-on the first few pages: under the popping lights, through the spacious veil of stars, into a labyrinthine space of black-and-white-striped tents filled with such attractions as an ice garden, a cloud maze, and a bonfire of crimson, violet, and white. From this initial invitation, the story jumps back and forth in time between 1837 and 1903, exploring the interrelated tales of a handful of characters. The weaving creates a lovely, restrained pacing, allowing readers to stroll through the story the way they would through the circus itself. At the narrative's core are two magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been set among the circus tents as figures on a magical chessboard. They are to play a game run by Celia's father and his nemesis, Alexander, a game the two masters have orchestrated many times before. What is at stake, how the game is played, and even the length of the game are unknown to Celia and Marco, who at first compete, but soon cannot resist collaborating to create ever-more fantastical attractions for the circus. As they forge the sumptuous revelry inside the tents, the two slowly fall in love, and their relationship is as fragile as the folded-paper models Marco uses to keep up with the circus and the mysterious scrapbook he employs to ensure the circus doesn't unravel. But unravel it does, as the circus was not designed as anything other than a battlefield. As the fate of the citizens of Le Cirque des Rêves, and that of a few key outside supporters, hangs by a thread, Celia and Marco must figure out how to escape the game. Evoking a mood of wonderment complemented by a portentous feel, the novel's lush language and charming sensibility will lure readers in as surely as tent signs such as A Climb Through the Firmament lure visitors into Le Cirque des Rêves. Note to audio fans: Don't miss Jim Dale's extraordinary reading. — Neal Wyatt, "RA Crossroads," Booksmack! 10/6/11
When Prospero the Enchanter discovers that he has a young daughter with extraordinary magical talents, he wastes no time in setting up a competition between her and the protégé of his longtime adversary. Celia and Marco train until young adulthood and eventually meet under the eerie black-and-white-striped tents of the Cirque des Rêves—the Circus of Dreams. What happens next has obviously intrigued a lot of people—rights for this debut have been sold to 22 countries, Summit Entertainment has made a film deal, and there's a 175,000-copy first printing. Not over-the-top kaleidoscopic but keenly, lushly cool and inventive with a hint of danger and reckless love; remember, this circus "Opens at Nightfall/ Closes at Dawn." Puts me in mind of Ray Bradbury's lightened up by Harry Potter. This will be big.
When Prospero the Enchanter discovers that he has a young daughter with extraordinary magical talents, he wastes no time in setting up a competition between her and the protégé of his longtime adversary. Celia and Marco train until young adulthood and eventually meet under the eerie black-and-white-striped tents of the Cirque des Rêves—the Circus of Dreams. What happens next has obviously intrigued a lot of people—rights for this debut have been sold to 22 countries, Summit Entertainment has made a film deal, and there's a 175,000-copy first printing. Not over-the-top kaleidoscopic but keenly, lushly cool and inventive with a hint of danger and reckless love; remember, this circus "Opens at Nightfall/ Closes at Dawn." Puts me in mind of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes lightened up by Harry Potter. This will be big.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


RELATED 

ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER?

We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing

ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER?