Book Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Vintage; 2011
Pages: 490

Now that your little one has arrived, you’re ready to show her the world. One of the best and fun ways to do that is through play. “Play, whether it’s peek-a-boo, rolling a ball or putting one block on top of another, gives parents a chance to step away from the non-stop care taking role a

The circus arrives without warning.” 

“I was hooked from the first page!” – This is not the kind of comment your regular book reviewer would ordinarily start his review with but…hey! I just did. I can now expect my editor to wince at this lead and cross this first paragraph with red hot, parallel strokes. My exhilaration, however, is understandable as it is one of a fantasy literature buff who has found a new author he would be glad to follow in future.

In this novel we follow the members of the circus troupe, Le Cirque des Reves, French for “Circus of Dreams,” through a period spanning the late 1800’s and early 1900’s in Victorian England. The story pirouettes round the unspecific details of a game perpetuated by two players, Marco Alisdair and Celia Bowen. They are both illusionists under the tutelage of Prespero the Enchanter and elusive Mr. A H. Reader expectation is sure to be met once introduced to the curious ensemble comprising Tsukiko the knowing contortionist, Isobel the tarot card reader, a team of costumiers headed by Mme. Padva and avid patrons, including you and me. We are taken into the worlds of these members of the troupe assembled by the also gifted proprietor of Le Cirque des Reves, Chandresh Christophe Lefevre.

The Circus turns up unannounced, only at night, and folds to disappear without a trace of ever having been there. It builds rave following by a growing circle of patrons hailed in the story as the Reveures by Friedrick Thiesssen. Their signature garb is in sync with the identity of the Circus which is black and white with a touch of red.

Their world is illusory, colourful and thrilling and the writer does not waste words in sustaining our interests as the competition unfolds between Celia and Marco, tying in the unwitting members of the troupe and outsiders. All impressions that this game is akin to chess are flawed and the mystery surrounding it is further perpetuated by the unprecedented consequences of pre-empting its rules or umpires. Readers are urged on by the question begging to be answered, “How is the outcome of this game to be decided?”

Before the first spell is cast in this book, the reader will be spellbound by the descriptive power of the writer. It is powerful indeed, as it cuts striking images clearly. This is evident in the writer’s representation of the Wunschtraum clock:

The face of the clock becomes a darker grey, and then black, with twinkling stars where the numbers had been previously. The body of the clock, which has been methodically turning itself inside out and expanding, is now entirely subtle shades of white and grey. And it is not just pieces, it is figures and objects, perfectly carved flowers and planets and tiny books with actual pages that turn. There is a silver dragon that curls around part of the now visible clockwork, a tiny princess in a carved tower who paces in distress, awaiting an absent prince. Teapots that pour into teacups and minuscule curls of steam that rise from them as the seconds tick. Wrapped presents open. Small cats chase small dogs. An entire game of chess is played.” Pg. 45,46.

Its description, just like its subject, is “dreamlike”.

The Night Circus is really a love story.

I started here by saying, “I was hooked from the first page!” but I dare to say, “I was hooked from the first paragraph!” I hope DreamWorks or some illustrious movie producer picks this book up for a movie adaptation and that they cast some actor for the role of Marco.

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