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. (Goodreads)
Review by Kim Harris Thacker, writer, mommy, and Bookshop Talk Host
THE NIGHT CIRCUS has received extraordinary praise, including starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. The novel started out as a writing challenge: Unpublished writer Erin Morgenstern decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month, or what is more commonly referred to among writers as NaNoWriMo. The book was written in bits that came together over time (longer than the month-long challenge) to become a dazzling, engulfing experience—not surprising, since Morgenstern is also a visual artist.
Celia and Marco are two magicians who are involved in a contest that is destined to be a lethal one—making its gorgeous venue rather ironic. Le Cirque des Rêves (or the Circus of Dreams) is tantalizing, from its black-and-white striped tents containing such marvels as ice gardens and mazes made of clouds to its too-delicious refreshments (chocolate-drizzled popcorn and rich apple cider, oh my!). I was completely blown away by the gorgeous and unbelievable, yet utterly believable setting Morgenstern created. Her writing is so vivid.
Le Cirque des Rêves takes over the lives of the magicians who work with it, becoming something so real that it is almost a living creature. This kind of vivid setting can threaten to take over a story, dwarfing its characters and the other crucial elements of the narrative, but Morgenstern balances the novel as well as the acrobats balance in the circus’s tallest tent.
A tip: Read THE NIGHT CIRCUS with some kind of treat in hand.
Market: adult fiction, fantasy (I think YA readers would enjoy this one too, though the book is definitely adult)
Language: moderate (only a few instances, including one “big” swear word and a couple of instances where someone uses the name of to Deity as a curse)
Sensuality: moderate (one sex scene that is not explicit, several rather obvious inuendos)
Violence: moderate (mutilation; a stabbing)