"I may not know how to fly but I know how to read and that's almost the same thing."-- Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz

"...while finding true love was one of the most splendid things that could happen to you in life, finding a friend was equally splendid." -- Felix J Palma, The Map of the Sky

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Monday, December 9, 2013

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves. A mysterious, one of a kind circus that, "Opens at nightfall, closes at dawn," and is filled with wondrously impossible exhibits. Hector Bowen and Alexander choose their prodigies, Celia and Marco, and manipulate them into participating in a game, with the circus as their venue. This is no ordinary circus and it isn't just a venue; this is a battleground where magicians wage war in plain sight of people who don't believe in magic. This is about the people who play the game, those who witness it, and those swept along in unforgiving, enchanting wake of the night circus.

First things first. There is absolutely, no way to review this book without praising the attention to detail. Everyone's heard the phase, "Show, don't tell," and Erin Morgenstern took great pains to make sure the reader was transported into the events happening inside her book. Everything was vividly described, from flavors of food to the scents in the air the characters were breathing; from something as obvious as what each wonder looked like to the subtleties of how people moved.

The characters themselves are vibrant. Alexander and Hector are both cold and calculating, but Hector is selfish and poisonous, while Alexander remains inscrutable and mysterious; his sympathies are sincere even as his callous decisions continue to inflict pain. Celia is passionate, quick to anger and quick to love, desperately trying to prove herself and protect those closest to her. Marco is steadfast and determined, as calculating as Hector and Alexander, but with a better set of morals than either of them. Then you have Murray twins, Poppet and Widget, born on opening night, with abnormal gifts all their own; a side effect of the night circus... They're not just witnessing it, or helping it along. They're living in it, sensing both the beauties and the horrors. Further out, on the fringes, exist the grand architects of the night circus; the theater producer, the engineers, the costume designers, and the choreographers. And beyond them, the rêveurs. People like Bailey, who fall in love with the circus to the point of obsession for it represents, people willing to follow it across country and continent.

I've heard this story is a product NaNoWriMo... And honestly, between the attention to detail and the attention to balance, it is hard to believe this was churned out in a month. And there is balance: the color scheme for starter's, all done up in black and white, but if you're into treading deeper, let's not forget the simplicity of dark and light. The characters viewed as "evil" and those viewed as "good" and those titles being a matter of perspective. Nobody stands up and shouts, "Love me, I'm the hero!" or "Kill that guy, he's clearly dangerous!" There are characters in this story you'll love to hate, characters you'll love to love, and they'll be forced to mix with each other rather than epically battle to a predictable ending.

There's even balance in how the circus is perceived and those perceptions handled. Some of the character realize this is no ordinary circus others feel content to bury their heads... For those that suspect the magic is real, love the circus more for it, or are driven mad by it. There's differences in how magic can be handled, natural versus learned. Which brings us to Marco and Celia. Their skills and personalities both compliment and conflict. At opposite ends of the earth they couldn't be more different; put them together and they couldn't be more similar. And I won't neglect the obvious balance of life and death...Some characters accept it as a fact of life, others strive to avoid it.

In case you couldn't tell from the way I'm gushing, I loved this story and I didn't want it to end. It was abnormal from fantasy in some ways; usually magic has more rules attached to it. So if you're a hardcore fantasy fan, this might not be for you. And its probably not going to blow the mind of strict literary fans who want to find deeper meaning behind every word. And all though I love books that can be deciphered, I also believe the world has a place for well written, imaginative stories meant to entertain.

Rating 5/5

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