The book is unusual and after reading it, I found it hard to put my thoughts on paper. The cover is dramatic and perfectly suited to the tale. The story was so creative and ingenious, that I found it difficult to sum it up and make it sound plausible, and yet, I loved “The Night Circus”, even though at times it was a bit confusing. With each new chapter I might be introduced to a whole new set of characters, with a change of setting, time and place. Many times, I had to look back in order to better follow the events and illusions taking shape.
To begin with, a rather unconventional bargain is struck between two magicians, perhaps unscrupulous, for a contest between two protégés that they will train, separately. The venue will be a circus. The stakes for the winner and loser are high. The challenge is without the permission of the contestants, who are never fully aware of their opponents or the time of the fulfillment of the contest. They are chosen as children and are not meant to meet each other. All they know is that they are competing to win, but they have no idea about any of the details. Although they don’t know how they are competing with each other, they train their whole lives, each with their own mentor. They know nothing about the end purpose of the competition or its prize.
The book is worth the need for a careful reading. The author’s imagination and inspired use of language has created a very well executed novel with each new theme, as good as, or better than, the one before. The characters are very well developed, but it was a bit hard to keep track of them because of their number and variety. Because the timeline jumps from chapter to chapter, it is important to read the date and year, printed with the chapter titles, to place yourself properly into the action so you can keep pace with the story.
The prose weaves a magical spell around the reader as it opens up a world of fantasy, imagination and illusion. What is real? What is not? What special power does each character possess? The book is a mystery and a wonderful romance that takes place in the magical world created in its pages. It is almost like a fairy tale in its ending. It will leave you wistful for a similar circus in your own neighborhood.
The imaginative quality of the story reminded me of "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell" -by Susanna Clark, which I listened to with the audio version of the book. I found I had to listen to some parts over and over, to understand their meaning. Similarly, I was compelled to reread sections or pages of "Night Magic" in order to fully comprehend the author’s message. However, the prose was so artfully crafted that it was a double pleasure.
Some of the characters seemed timeless like Dorian Gray, but were they evil? Were they pawns in this chess game with people as the pieces? Was the circus a place of magical moments or was it truly a "magic" circus? Who will win the contest? Who will be the last man standing?
The author’s style creates suspense and wonder. It will inspire the reader to dream of and picture the images, she creates with her pen.