My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Night Circus
I picked this one up for two reasons: it was a Nanowrimo novel that’s done very well for itself and I’ve been nanoing for years and because it was magic realism (since I needed something beyond the lure of nano). It was described as a magic battle and implied it was to the death. And therein lies my issues with this book, skewed perceptions. I was expecting Gandalf or Lord Voldemort and I get a magical chess game with none of the whimsy of Wizard’s Chess. Don’t get me wrong. This is a good book but it is not MY type of book. It falls into that category I’ve read far too many books from this year, the book that is technical quite good but for whatever reason didn’t click with me.
First off this is a book of words, in that they are used lushly and well but for something written in present tense (which I’m not fond of but can easily look past) it is amazingly passive. More on that later. And it is non-linear, something I’ve dealt with a lot in the last six months and I’m tired of. You really do have to read the date on every chapter because it flip flips in time and there are a ton of characters. On a personal note I tried reading this at a time where I had little reading time so stretching it out like that might have played a role in my disappointment.
In a nutshell, Celia Bowen is the daughter of a magician, a real magician as opposed to a stage illusionist, born in the late 1800’s and deposited on his doorstep when her mother kills herself. Sensing the magic in her, he trains her then makes her his pawn in a centuries spanning challenge with his nemesis, Mr. A who has selected a young orphan, Marco, specifically for this challenge. After spending several chapters on their training, the circus opens.
The circus, open only a night, is the venue for the challenge. At first Celia and Marco do not know they are opponents (well they know they have one just not who) and while Celia travels with the circus, Marco is stationed in London with Chandresh, the idea man who dreamed up the circus. Many of the characters are about the side characters like Chandresh, the sisters Lanie and Tara who are involved with the start up, Herr Thiessen the clockmaker who later sort of heads up the Deadheads (um revers) who follow the circus everywhere, Tante who makes the clothing, Isobel who is in love with Marco and is spying on the circus while working as their fortune teller, Bailey a young man whose life is altered by the circus and the Murray twins, Poppet and Widget born the day the circus began.
I nearly stopped reading several times in the beginning because I could not connect with Celia or Marco (and I never do) but around page 200, about half way through, it gets much more accessible (and I see other reviewers saying the same). Once Poppet and Widget take more center stage, I was more interested and around this time a more sinister underpinning of the circus is detectible. But the real battle between Celia and Marco is just adding more circus tents, each more lavish and fantastical than the last. It is a chess game. I don’t find watching chess interesting. Naturally once they do meet, they fall in love as star-crossed as any other because one of them must die when the battle ends.
And I don’t like giving away endings in a review. I was not happy with ending. It could have been worse but it could have been better. It felt a little like a cheat and honestly I felt the motivation for the two ancient magicians for even doing this was rather weak. But I do need to say something so Spoilers.
Don’t look down.
I mean it.
Wouldn’t read any comments I get.
Okay as non-spoilery as I can make this spoiler….I hated that they never even thought once to turn on the two controlling the game. To me that made no sense. To go meekly along with this, what was that about? If that was impossible then make it more clear that it was. They couldn’t run away, sure but why not just turn the tables or at least THINK about it. That bothered me.
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