By Erin Morgenstern
Genre: Fantasy (possibly magical realism)
The wonderful thing about the Internet age is that it is easier to talk to authors and share one’s thoughts on them. The Night Circus has a soft place in my heart because the author replied to an email I sent her. I didn’t really expect a response, with the massive launch of The Night Circus, but it was gratifying nonetheless to get a reply.
I emailed Morgenstern because The Night Circus remains of the most visually astounding and intriguing novels I have ever read. Just as so many kids want Hogwarts to be real, I so badly want Le Cirque des Rêves to be real. The Circus, the heart of the story and embodied in the rival magicians, is just too beautiful to go unread. Its not often that I reread a particular description of a simple caramalised apple just because it sounds so incredible. The tent with the Wishing Tree is possibly still my favourite, though Tsukiko the Contortionist vies for all attention. (And the Ice Garden is just transcendent.)
I digress. The plot involves two old magicians pitting their protégés against each other in a terrible game. There is a magnificent circus where everything is themed in black and white, a collection of characters and acts so astounding in their talent and grace that it demanded retelling. So many beautiful interludes of the Circus, each one astounding in its new description. There is romance, rivalry, intrigue and delicious mystery, and it is a superbly easy read, much like enjoying the chocolate mice in the story.
Of course, I must be honest in one detail: the author has a truly phenomenal gift of description, making so many things fantastically vivid. As someone who see things in words (dreadfully dull, I know), she was able to bring an entire world into my head. The only place she let me down (and admittedly it wasn’t much) was in the dialogue between the lovers. The rest of it worked really well, and flowed elegantly. But the two main lovers sounded just a little cliché, a little less eloquent. Maybe it was because of their youth that they did not command as elaborate and beautiful a vocabulary as the book as a whole, but I did find them a bit stilted. But their wordless gestures were powerful and elegant, and so I forgive them their clumsiness, especially after the Ice Garden.
The Night Circus is a delicious, easy read, and I think it will appeal to fans of magic. I hesitate to use fantasy, a word too loaded with dragons and elves and such-like clichéd crap, but there isn’t really a genre for it other than magical realism. Even that doesn’t quite fit. At heart it is a love story, but it is enrobed in magic and beauty, elevating it beyond a cheesy romance.