The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
One of the hazards of reading and reviewing a book such as The Night Circus is it renders one’s reviewing ability virtually useless. It’s a good thing and a bad thing. For one, piecing together a coherent take on the book is an arduous task. For another, it’s a shot at your already frail capacity to write a review in the first place. To top it off, The Night Circus was very vague in a lot of aspects. So the chances drawing blanks while writing the review is considerably high.
Still, I can say in all honesty, that this book is highly imaginative, however strange. Though it’s tough to follow sometimes because the timeline jumps sporadically. And the fact that the train arrives without warning at the most random places adds to that confusion. The train itself is magical, obviously. It carries the performers who possessed some otherworldly abilities recruited by the mysterious founder.
At the core of this novel is a love story between two protégés caught in between two competing magicians. But the romance lacks intensity so it takes a backseat throughout the novel. The two magicians seem immortal, pitting one protege against the other over the years. The mechanics of the game wasn’t clear, which is frustrating for the most part. The object was to beat each other, of course. As to the genesis and end game, Ms. Morgenstern was not very forthcoming.
The world of The Night Circus is magical in the literal sense. Besides the fact that the train travels like the wind (swift as the speed of sound), Celia and Marco have the strangest ability to manipulate thoughts, stop time, and even dabble in telekinesis. You have a fortune teller whose accuracy is uncanny, and kids who speak to animals. But is there anything more magical than love? Ms. Morgenstern explores the dark relationships between the children and their minders. Most of them were taken when they were young then cared for by their guardians. But it is love? Like that of a parent to their child? Celia’s relationship with her father was tenuous at best, volatile for the most part. Marco didn’t fare any better. In the end, it was hard to decipher who was manipulating whom.
There is a star-crossed element to the romance between Marco and Celia. Besides the fact that their masters are mortal enemies, the result of the competition ends in the loser’s death. Quitting the game is no easy task. It’s almost as if the contest is set up so the competing magicians fall in love, so to win the game also means it’s at the expense of the person they love. That should be enough to titillate the most ardent romance readers, but sadly, the thrill just wasn’t there.
Morgenstern’s writing is very polished but because it’s set in the 1800s, I can’t help but feel that the emotions were restricted. It’s formal, regimented, and unfortunately, very cold at times. I would like to read more of her other works, though. But I would like to wait and see something other than this historical/magical realism/fantasy hybrid.