So what is The Night Circus? Well, critics haven penned it as "the new Harry Potter" which would only be accurate if you've never read Harry Potter. Maybe these critics assume because it involves magic, it's EXACTLY like Harry Potter. Riiight. Magic in this story doesn't even matter, in fact it would have probably made more sense without it.
Set in the 1800s, The Night Circus is supposed to be about a mythical, almost dream-like circus that pops up unannounced anywhere in the world. It is an experience beyond your imagination, a web of intricate tents with real magical performers who put on shows to dazzle the audience. Tickets at the gate. Closes at dawn.
However, the plot doesn't just tell the story of a mysterious circus and the performers within. In fact, it skips all over the place and doesn't even touch on what life is like in the 1800s, in fact, it could have been set in the current time frame and you wouldn't know.
To start, it follows the storyline of Celia, an illusionist in the circus, and Marco, an assistant to the circus's owner - it weaves a bizarre path of how they were magically bound together to kill each other in a competition. It's worth noting that the competition has no instructions, no rules, and is completely vague in it's details. Even Celia and Marco don't realize it ends in death until the regularly performing contortionist tells them she was the winner of the last competition.
It's missing clearly defined details such as: what's the reward? what's the goal? who's judging it? It's described as a magical duet but really, all they do is create fun new circus attractions like a garden made of ice, or a tree of dreams. It doesn't feel like it fits the category of a battle.
For awhile, the story shifts and follows Marco's life as he works as an assistant to the owner, a very wealthy man who hosts elaborate midnight dinner parties amongst a secret circle of friends. It's this man who forms the team of people who create Le Cirque des Rêves, but as the years pass he eventually falls into a pattern of heavy drinking and delusions.
The circus plays on for years, and some very bizarre things happen. One woman who developed the smells of the circus dies in a train accident. A young boy follows the circus hoping to re-connect with one of the performers. Celia and Marco realize they're in love and Marco leaves his tarot-reading girlfriend for Celia. The man who constructed the clock tower at the front gate starts a fan club of circus followers. Later he's killed, kind of by mistake.
It's honestly one of the strangest books I've ever read. I kept thinking it would all come together in the end, but it really doesn't leave you feeling satisfied. Maybe the author has gone to too many cirque de soleil performances, who knows.
I'd tell you how the book ends, but honestly, I'm not sure I even understood what happened. It somehow involves a vortex beyond life and a cauldron, which traps Marco and Celia, and the power of the circus gets transferred to the boy who visited it once and made friends with the two twins.
Very odd. So on to the next one, I say.
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