The Night Circus: A World of Enchantment
You wake up in the morning and it’s there when you could have sworn it wasn’t there yesterday. You feel confused, but the confusion is instantly trumped by unwavering curiosity. Come nightfall, it opens up and you escape into a world of fantasy, not knowing just how real it all actually is.
Welcome to the Night Circus. Don’t confuse this circus with those bright, gaudy travelling carnivals filled with stale popcorn, petty animal tricks, and clowns that are most often more frightening than funny. The Night Circus, dubbed Le Cirque des Rêves, is like no other circus you have ever seen. The infinite tents that hold your wildest dreams are striped black and white. The acrobats defy gravity without the need for safety nets. When she moves, you question whether or not the contortionist has any bones. The fortuneteller knows everything about you despite the fact that you haven’t met. Your future slowly unfolds in front of your eyes. The illusionist (magician is too much of a derogatory word for this circus) can make you feel and see things you’ve never experienced, trapping you in dreams filled with fantastical illusion.
As you walk along the paths from the courtyard where the blazing white flames of the bonfire illuminate the heart of the circus, you come across different tents, each containing an island of fantasy and illusion. You enter the hall of mirrors, which is anything but normal; each mirror reflects and distorts what you think is real. You find the labyrinth by going through different doors that are lost among bright white trees. You enter the ice garden and are amazed to see that each tree, plant and flower is made of delicate, colorful ice that doesn’t melt despite the sweltering summer heat. Another striped tent holds performers and fire-eaters doing impossible feats with torches and flames, mesmerizing their audience with their every move. Intricately dressed and romantic in nature, several statues are stationed around the circus still and unmoving, unless one were to dedicate part of their night to stay and watch for that subtle yet somewhat mistakable movement that bears witness to life.
How did this Circus come to be, you might ask. A collaboration of talents and dreams from the 19th centuries’ most artistic and avant-garde thinkers. It is a circus of illusion and wonder created by those that not only believe in such dreams but are also the actual creators of said illusion and wonders.
The circus also functions as a venue for a duel; a duel that is set up regardless of the wishes and desires of both opponents. Celia has the great misfortune (or fortune, she still cannot decide) of having Prospero the Enchanter, the greatest illusionist of his time, as her father. He teaches her his craft, which is only honed and perfected due to Celia’s natural born talent, which she inherited from her father. What Celia and her father do is not simple illusion; it is real. From the early age of five, Celia is “tied”, to Marco, the protégé of Prospero’s rival and friend Alexander. Celia and Marco are brought up learning different techniques of enchantment, unaware of the other’s identity. They are destined to duel within this circus, but fate intervenes by sucking them into the circus’ enchanting never ending world of dreams and illusions. What arises is an amalgamation of love, desire, enchantment, betrayal, and, of course, illusion. But it is not only Marco and Celia’s fates that are altered by this larger than life circus; each performer is pulled in and trapped within the duel and the inner workings of the circus.
Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel is surely a success. She masterfully puts to paper this fantastical Circus making the reader dream and wish that such a circus actually existed. Each character in the novel is intricately conceived: strange, yet able to integrate himself or herself into the commonplace; smart yet easily deceived by the magic that surrounds them. They are talented and strong-willed, yet slaves to the things they desire and which set them off their paths. Each character, no matter how far fetched they may seem, cannot help but remind the readers of themselves: people born with faults and talents, who, despite what their fate has cast upon them, are puppets of the people and forces that surround them. Morgenstern’ success does not rest solely on the world she has created, but also on her excellent portrayal of human nature and the human condition.
The Night Circus will captivate everyone. It brings you into a world you only fleetingly dreamt of. It makes you feel the excitement that was probably lacking when you went to the “normal” circus as a child. Above all it makes you dream; it makes you rethink the “running away to join the circus” cliché of escape and opens up doors of adventure and imagination.