as I write this, I'm sitting up in my bedroom, the rain pattering softly on the grass and roofs outside. The window fan is pulling in the cool, sweet rain-air, and it's delicious.
I recently finished one of the most imaginative, decadent, magical pieces of fiction I've read in quite some time. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a feast for the mind, as well as the senses. The story draws the reader into Les Cirque de Reves, where dazzling sights abound, mystery waits behind every corner, and the scent of smoke and caramel always fills the air. The circus travels from city to city, vanishing and appearing as if by magic, and, once settled, it opens only at nightfall. Celia and Marco, the apprentices of two master illusionists, have been sent to the circus and instructed to engage in a covert battle of magical skill, the rules of which even they are unsure. When the two young magicians fall in love, will it bring disaster upon them – and upon the entire circus?
As much as I loved this novel (it was definitely one of the best pieces of contemporary fantasy I've read in a while), I did have a couple of issues with it. (mild spoiler alert, I suppose...) For one, some parts of the story remained awfully vague. We never really find out anything about how the magicians use magic, especially Celia's character. She just does magic...by using her brain? That's what it seems. At the beginning of the story, it's implied that she was simply born with this ability, but it's never explained beyond that. We finish the book without any understanding of what magic actually is, or how it works, within the universe of The Night Circus. Maybe Morgenstern was going for vague and mysterious in this regard, but I felt as though it left the story lacking.
The other thing that left me dissatisfied was, unfortunately, the central love story. I guess that when I first read the book synopsis, I was envisioning two young people falling in love for the first time, complete with all the wonder, awkwardness, adorableness, giddiness, oh-my-goodness-so-this-is-life euphoria, etc., all against the backdrop of magic and circuses (quick – someone write that book!! it will be awesome!!). Instead, we've got a relationship that hinges heavily upon the characters' physical attraction to one another (which is fine, but is never the center of a believable romance), and a LOT of angsty dialogue (mainly regarding the predicament of simultaneously being in love and being opponents). Speaking of which, for all the life of me, I couldn't figure out why these two characters were supposedly “in love”, to begin with. It wasn't apparent at all to me, aside from their brooding, passionate declarations, and other characters' assertions that they were “OBVIOUSLY in love”. I mean, I don't know. When you read a fairytale, and it tells you that the prince loved the princess, you don't question it; you just accept it. Maybe that's the kind of approach that Morgenstern wanted us to take here? The good news: a secondary romance between two of our other protagonists – which is very understated, but absolutely perfect – saves the day.
In other news, check out this trailer for a new movie from the directors of Little Miss Sunshine:
this looks as cute as can be - I'm definitely going to try to go see this one in theaters! the only thing that makes me feel iffy about the premise is the whole free will issue - if he can control her through his writing, then is she really her own person, and can she really love him? hopefully, that's something that the film will address - if so, this could turn out to be quite excellent!
I'll leave you with a few samplings of the gorgeous work of Lisa Hannigan, an Irish singer-songwriter whom I've recently rediscovered. I absolutely adore her raw-but-gentle; whimsical-yet-mature style. she's absolutely enchanting:
pace e bene! :)
(image credit: goodreads.com)