Friday, October 21, 2011

A fairy tale for adults | The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world. – Oscar Wilde, 1888

I’ve been to dark places these past few weeks and enjoyed it immensely. First, I stepped into an unnamed city with The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick (click here for review) and then I travelled with The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern which I shall talk about now.

You see, when The Guardian long-listed Morgenstern as one of the best debut authors early in September, her book hadn’t even been published. But the article did feature an extract, which was quite unnecessary because it had my attention the minute I laid eyes on the cover. Black, white with a bit of red thrown in, I knew instantly that this was a book I'd adore. The extract didn’t do anything to deter my resolve to posses it, so on September 13, I ordered the Kindle version off Amazon.

Set at the turn of the 18th Century, the the story features Celia and Marco, two magicians who are groomed to enter a battle of skills when they grow up. Bound to the game, and more importantly, to each other, Le Cirque des Rêve, the travelling circus that’s only open at night, is their battlefield. With brilliant mastery, the duo showcase their skills by creating sections such as a garden made entirely of ice, a room of clouds you can actually jump off and a lair of bottled memories. But that’s just the fun stuff. The majority of their powers are utilised to keep the circus and its members safe from peril, travel across continents with quick ease and for some strange reason, keep everyone involved from aging. So you see, the circus is no ordinary place and it isn't just Celia and Marco who are bound to the fate of the game. That is why the two begin to tire of their roles, longing to be together instead. But as with all fairy tales that have been woven in dark, magical surroundings, finding a happily-ever-after ending is a lot more complicated than it seems.

So the question is – is it a young adult novel? Hell to the no! Should you read it? Yes, absolutely! The Night Circus is a brilliant first attempt by the author. Her prose is filled with imagination, detail and colour (even though there is little mention of any). The structure, divided into five parts, oscillates between the late 1800s and the first decade of the 1900s. The ride can get a bit woozy because the spacetime continuum, works very well in the first half of the book but starts getting confusing to the point of annoyance in the second half. Sure, there’s enough mystery to keep you hooked and plenty of introductions to characters you know will turn out to be very interesting as the plot progresses. But alas, somewhere after the halfway mark, Morgenstern’s storytelling skills begin to droop and drag. There’s only so much one can marvel at the beauty of the black and white circus that’s almost like an amusement park, mysterious characters who have hidden secrets and a bonfire that isn't just keeping patrons warm.

Morgenstern's evidently too fresh to create any lasting trends or ComicCon-worthy characters with The Night Circus. But it’s just her first novel and going by that – she ought to, no, deserves to be, on every fantasy fiction aficionado’s radar.

Verdict: If you begin reading the book, you will also finish it. So I recommend you buy The Night Circus from

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