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, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love – a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus perÂformers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
What I feel after reading this book is what I imagine the circus-goers in the world of The Night Circus felt after dawn. It was absolutely magical, to say the least; it exceeded any expectations of what the story would be about when I started the book. To explain it would be like how the clock-maker felt after his visit – words would be incomplete, but I’ll try. The story of The Night Circus revolves around this game that two magicians have created – to pit their students against each other in a match of skills and imagination. This particular game is being held on a large scale – as part of the Circus that was created by their machinations. The two players – Celia and Marco – are told to not interfere or bother with their opponent, but instead set up elaborate displays in turns and ultimately a winner would be chosen. But the Circus they have created in tandem has become an entity of its own, dragging along the others tied to it in its path.
The story actually takes place over many years – from when Celia and Marco are kids to the future of the Circus. The chapters sometimes alternate in time, and there it gets a bit tricky remembering the ages of the characters and what previous chapter it connects to. The book is a little like a puzzle, slowly arranging pieces when you aren’t watching and suddenly things fall in place. Told from various character perspectives of the people involved in the circus, the plot places itself squarely across time and distance, as well as the wonder it creates in its audience. Another character a generation down, Bailey starts getting tied in the story, and when those threads come together, you realize how ingeniously the book was designed. The feeling of seeing everything but nothing is something you get used to, because the story plays out in between the lines too, in the small phrases scattered granting more meaning to the plot.
Now, while the romance is one of the driving points of the story, it is also about the wonder and burden of seeing things no one else can. Celia and Marco can perform these great feats, but even with the ones in the know, they can have only adoration and love, not entirely belonging. Not to say that they don’t form meaningful relationships besides each other, but there is also the fact that they have literally been bonded to the game since their childhood. The story in the first half is all mystique and wonder, and starts to get dark in the second half, when it becomes apparent that the longer the Circus goes on, the more the ones associated with it become troubled by it. But then again, it manifested in ways that I didn’t expect and right until the ending I was kept on my toes, a feeling I very much appreciated from this book. I would suggest this for all lovers of fantasy, for those who love to escape.