my tragic right hip

Busting out bad joints all over the place

February 4th, 2012

#2 – The Night Circus

Yes, I have hijacked #1, which was Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. With the amount that’s been said everywhere about Austen’s work, there’s nothing more I can add to the conversation except to say that the more of her novels that I read, the more I discover how indebted fiction in general is to her work. Fanny might be my least favourite of her heroines, but I did admire her utter dedication to morality and her ability to always do the right thing, especially considering how things turn out for poor Maria. It took me ages to read, and I was getting antsy, so I was glad to finish and turn my attention to The Night Circus.

At its heart, this is a love story, and like Rob Wiersma (review linked), it stops you in your tracks. It’s very classic in a way, star-crossed lovers, circumstances built into their lives to keep them apart, and the lengths that people will go to when their love is grand in nature. Celia, the daughter of Prospero the Enchanter, a magician whose magic is more a gift than slight of hand, thrusts his utterly talented girl into a fight-to-the-death game with his rival, Alexander’s protégé, Marco. Working through Chandresh Lefevre and using his own magic, Marco controls The Night Circus, an epic travelling show that enthralls audiences with its interesting blend of traditional circus fare and the tricks/spells/enchantments the two main characters engage in.

At first, neither Celia nor Marco know their opponent. They aren’t even really sure of the rules of the game. Slowly, truths come to the surface: the magic is real, not an illusion; Marco and Celia fall in love; and the game could ultimately come to destroy The Night Circus without the help of a group of dedicated admirers and a willful set of equally talented twins. This world, set against the black and white colourings of the circus itself, bursts with the kind of life one expects from a travelling show, amazing costumes, amazed audiences, and it’s only when the performers themselves begin to notice that time moves incredibly slowly for them, that they start asking questions. Even so, the circus has taken on a life of its own by this point, and everyone, Celia, Marco, and the twins, will do what it takes to keep it viable.

There are aspects of The Night Circus that I wholly admire. I wish I could be a fly on the wall of Morgenstern’s imagination — it’s so fresh and pure, and the world she creates thrilled me to bits. She makes it easy, effortless really, to get swept away from the moment the book opens. Yet, it’s a first novel, the writing isn’t as strong as I’d have hoped in places, and it falls down predictably (and particularly) during the love scenes, which is hard stuff to write. Morgenstern’s strangely in love with odd words, repeating them throughout the text (“penultimate” is a particular favourite), but these are ticks that will be written out of her later work — I’m sure. Because what’s really important, and why it’s such an impressive debut, is Morgenstern’s ability to be so forthright and honest in what must be her own love of real magic, and this, in return, is magical for the reader.

One Response to “#2 – The Night Circus”

  • Kailana says:

    I guess this is going to be a movie. I am rather curious how that will work out…


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Girl with titanium hip will rock. Girl with titanium hip will write. Girl with titanium hip will read. Girl with titanium hip will battle crazy-ass disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis. Now stuff that in your spelling bee!

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