Publisher: Vintage Books, Random House
Release Date: May 24, 2012 (Originally Sept 13, 2011)
Read in: Nov – Dec 2016
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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.
Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.
The Circus arrives without warning.
I think this opening line is a really intriguing line that makes you curious enough to read it. It sets the tone and mood for the rest of the book, and sets up the world that shows you the unexpected. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the writing, the whimsical worldbuilding and the bizarre cast of characters. However, you’re introduced in such a loose way with literally no strings attached between each little plot line it takes a while before it all comes weaving together, like finding the right path in a labyrinth after getting lost for days (okay, not that extreme but you get the point).
The thing that really drew me to this book was the world. I went into this book mostly blind, so I was not expecting that this book was set in the late 1800s (Victorian era). It reminds me of the steampunk fantasy books, except it’s not as stereotypical, I guess. I love how magical it is, yet it really does get quite dark and gritty the more you read. The circus is so deeply intertwined with the actual world, there’s a part of you that actually wishes it were real, even though you know it’s not. Part of this is due to the imagery throughout the book – it’s so well-written, you can just vividly imagine the places that are mentioned, right down to the little details.
The circus is actually the main setting for the majority of the plot. Almost every thing centres around the circus – the lives and livelihood of many characters, and also the source of tension and mystery. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the plot (in fact, I wasn’t really sure what was going on for the first half of the book), I really did love the circus, full of all it’s mysteries that unravel as you read. What I did grasp was that it was some kind of competition between the two main characters, Celia and Marco which is set up by two ‘magicians’ – Prospero the Enchanter (aka Hector) and Alexander (aka the man in the grey suit). To make things ultra confusing, there’s a separate timeline that is interwoven into the story that’s about thirty years into the future from the beginning focusing on a set of different characters. While it is confusing at first, after a while I got used to the style of storytelling, and eventually, everything came together quite nicely.
Opens at Nightfall. Closes at dawn.
However, I didn’t really like how the plot turned out towards the end, especially in regards to the romance. While I’m usually a sucker for a good romance story, I felt like the ending was a bit too cheesy for what the book was. I just don’t think it was totally necessary, but honestly I did foresee the ending coming through the neatly placed hints throughout the book, so it wasn’t exactly surprising.
I actually wasn’t the biggest fan of all the characters. I really enjoyed reading about all of them, especially Celia and Marco. I think they’re the kind of characters that just grow on you as you read. The character development is definitely there, but it’s very subtle development that I found very intriguing. I think my favourite character was actually Tsukiko, even though she was annoying (especially towards the end), but I didn’t realise how significant she was in the story until that one chapter that explained everything. I also really liked how diverse the cast of characters were – I loved the fact that Tsukiko was Japanese and that the previous challenge had been Japanese themed. The fact that her rival had been Hinata made me chuckle a little at the antithetical character names.
What it came down to in the end that made me keep reading were the little details. The foreshadowing was on point, and the extracts written by Friedrick Thiessen inserted strategically was also a really nice touch. I love the descriptions of Thiessen’s clocks, especially the one he was commissioned to make for the Night Circus – it’s so damn pretty that I want someone to commission me a custom made clock that has the same magic to it. I also love how there’s essentially a fan group that follows the circus whenever it moves – the significance of red on the cover is made very clear later on despite the earlier themes of mostly noir et blanc.
In all honesty, I loved the subtle details that went into this book which really did it for me. Even though the cast of characters nor plot is the selling point for me, I think it’s still a very worthwhile read because of all the vivid imagery and brilliant worldbuilding. It’s a little more challenging to get into the book at first, but it’s definitely worth the effort to read such a detailed book. However, in order to understand this book more, I think I will have to re-read it again at some point to pick up on all the subtle details outlined in the beginnings of the book.
Now the circus is open. Now you may enter.