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. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart."
- Publisher: Doubleday
- Release date: September 13, 2011
- Page count: 387
- Unique elements: Designs on pages, the way sections are divided
- Would appeal to: Lovers of magic, fans of Harry Potter, kids at heart!
"He reads histories and mythologies and fairy tales, wondering why it seems that only girls are ever swept away from their mundane lives on farms by knights or princes or wolves. It strikes him as unfair to not have the same fanciful opportunity himself."
"As the course progresses, when she is not distracted by the astounding quality of the food, Celia makes a game of deciphering the relationships between the guests. Reading the way they interact, intuiting the emotions hidden beneath the laughter and conversation, catching the places that gazes linger."
"There is the softest of sobbing...but it is difficult to pinpoint who it is coming from, or if it is instead a collective sound of mingled sighs and wind and shifting feet."
"It is a different sensation than watching the stars while lying in a field...There are no trees creeping into the edges..."
"'Did Widge tell you that?' Bailey asks, wondering if the thought is so strong that it sits on him, evident and readable."
"Only hours ago, she was certain. Now, sitting in this cave of lightly perfumed silk, what had seemed constant and unquestionable feels as delicate as the steam floating over her tea."
Wow! I said it out loud when I finished reading. This book, with its complicated interwoven storylines, must have taken immense planning, yet Erin Morgenstern has sewn it so effortlessly together. Most of that is thanks to her gorgeous story-telling. This lady can write and I'm already looking forward to her next novel! Her sentences fit the time period--no contractions, and her vocabulary ROCKS! I didn't know a lot of the words, but that didn't distract me. Some sentences were so powerfully compelling or uniquely stated that I read them four times before moving on ("far-flung friends" is my new favorite phrase). See if you notice a pattern with some of the chapter headings.
As for the story...who doesn't like the circus? This is even better than an ordinary circus. Anything you could ever dream awaits attendees in the multitude of black and white tents. It appears out of nowhere, stays an indetermined amount of time, and leaves in the night without notice, traveling to an unannounced location. From the tantalizing smell of carmel and delicious chocolate mice with licorice tails to the air of mystery given off by the large clock at the entrance of Le Cirque des Reves, the circus is one I fully hope someone tries to replicate. After each particular tent was described, for example, the Cloud Maze or the Ice Garden, I could imagine it perfectly. And all of these tents that are popping up are part of a giant game started when Marco and Celia were children; they are merely pawns in an ancient dispute, seared red scars on their fingers from binding rings. The only instructions they truly understand are that there must be a winner, even though they don't know they're opponent or the rules of the game.
The details transform this book from good to brilliant. Morgenstern takes her time describing little things-- the color of a scarf, the see-through hand of a father, the broken wing of a paper raven. A love of books is definitely instilled in both Marco and Celia, so if you like ink, Shakespeare, poetry, or libraries, you will love the ways all of them are incorporated. I loved the relationship between Marco and Celia, even though it took time to develop. The dialogue between them is honest and flows so naturally. Not all romances are heated and fast and many YA books describe. I think it's also important to mention how fleshed out the minor characters were. I fell in love with the eccentric clockmaker and the lavish man who threw midnight dinner parties (names witheld so you can find out who they are yourself!). I appreciated the fact that there is a character not loved back...in fact, perhaps more than one, depending on your interpretation of events. The best thing about this circus is that they aren't seen as misfits, neither to the circus performers or the attendees, because each person appears to have been born of magic, from the barely moving statues to the acrobats to the twins who perform with their kittens.
The author was also fabulous at providing tiny hints of what was to come. I guessed one event before it occurred, partly thanks to my college psychology class, but many other events I didn't see coming. Penelope, or Poppet, was actually my favorite character, as she was genuinely well-meaning and sweet. More than one romance unfolds along the course of the story!
This would normally get a five star rating, however, the beginning was very hard for me to get into. I found the jumping around of time periods confusing and often looked back to see how much time had passed. I became fully immersed and interested in the story at about page 100. That was my single and only disappointment in the novel. Please don't let that fact scare you, as I know it'll be different for each reader. The black and white stripes in the inside cover made me dizzy when I'd get a glimpse of them, but I absolutely loved the black and white theme throughout. It made the tents and their contents that much more vibrant.
It was more than worth sticking out the slow start. I got extremely teary eyed at the end because I became so attached to the characters, but even more than that, the circus as a whole. It could be argued that Le Cirque des Reves is a character in itself. I will tell everyone I know about this book. Although it contains magic from start to finish, some real and some learned, it IS magic itself! What a fabulous fantasy world to escape to. I would happily purchase the author's imagination from her if it were up for sale (creepy, but not untrue).