You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Friday, July 06, 2012

The Night Circus

The circus has a special place in film and fiction as a place where magical things occur. I am reminded of the recent shows The Cape and especially the last season of Heroes, where a circus full of people with special powers transports magically to different locations. The circus in The Night Circus also appears suddenly in spots where it wasn't the night before. This circus shows its patrons magical wonders that they can't find anywhere else.

The story revolves around a young man and young woman engaged in a long term magical competition at the turn of the Twentieth Century. The competition is grand but mysterious--the two do not even understand how they are to win. At first they do not even know who the other competitor is. When her mother dies, Celia Bowen goes to be with her father, the magician Hector Bowen, also know as Prospero the Enchanter. Prospero immediately sees the magical gift in her. He contacts his longtime rival to arrange setting up the competition. The rival, known as the man in the grey suit, goes to an orphanage to find a boy. When the children are older, their father/mentor has each of them put on a ring that binds them together as it dissolves into their fingers.

Over the years Celia and Marco gain knowledge of magic. Celia masters the manipulation of matter and Marco becomes a master of illusion. Celia is invited to join Le Cirque Des Reves. The Cirque contains wonders that can't be found anywhere else. Celia comes to be a dominant part of the circus as her inventions keep the circus itself going. Marco directs the circus from afar as the assistant to the director, yet his influence grows in secret. It is Marco who first realizes that Celia is his opponent, yet he cannot work against her since he starts to fall in love with her.

This story treads the fine line between mysterious and confusing. The narrative is enjoyable, even though the conflict is largely implicit and behind the scenes. There is some intrigue and a death or two; the secret forces behind the circus want to stay hidden as the circus takes on a life of its own. While the characterization is strongest with the two opponents, the other characters are lifelike and some rise to influence the story in unexpected ways. The writing infuses the circus with a dreamlike mystery. Different people see different parts of it and it changes with the influx of new performers. I found the story enjoyable even though at times it was underwhelming and I found myself wondering if there should be more. In a way it is like the circus, providing surreal entertainment to create awe. B+

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