So…This book wasn’t what I expected, not really.
And that’s not a bad thing at all.
I first heard of this book because of Failbetter Games and the Story Nexus; I used to play Fallen London quite regularly (I don’t anymore; these days my online gaming is pretty much limited to Kingdom of Loathing). Around the time of the book’s release, a Night Circus Story was added to the Nexus. I played it, experimentally; I liked the feel and the sighing sadness underlying the storylines there; the sense that the Circus was something more but that it was also somewhat sinister.
All the best Circuses are.
I didn’t pick up the book until just recently, however, because my sister and my mother both wanted me to read it. And both of them told me it was ‘sad.’ (Misery loves company in my family, what can I say?)
When I finished, I sent a text to my mother saying, “I don’t think it’s sad.”
She said, “The children.”
I said, “Yes, that was cruel.”
And cruelty abounds in the book; the words on the page are black and white but the characters bleed red. Le Cirque des Réves is colored deliberately in black and white, but les Reveurs, the dreamers who follow the circus from place to place, add just a touch of red as well. And in the end, the story is all the shifting shades of grey of moonlight. The Night Circus is a story about stories, and how we tell them, and to whom, and is a reminder that each of us are the hero of our own story, whether we accept that while living or not.
Magic comes at a price; the one paid in the Circus is not as high as it could be.
And although the prose is dreamy, the characters are sharp as snow and bright as midnight (no, really, that’s a compliment), the dialogue feels real, and there are so many consequences not only for the young lovers at the heart of the circus but for those who surround them whether to guard and guide them or to destroy them. Action, reaction, and the story unfolds as carefully as figures on a majestic, magical, clock.
I have a feeling this book will ensorcell who it will, just as the Circus does. But I recommend it to those who like unlikely romances, magic, circuses, and prose that lingers long after the reading is done. And also anyone who enjoyed A Circus of Brass and Bone.