When two powerful magicians decide to pit their apprentices, Celia and Marco, against one another they choose the Le Cirque des Reves (The Circus of Dreams) as the battleground. Le Cirque de Reves never announces where it will be next, but simply appears and opens every night until dawn, and disappears again a few days later. Its devotees, known as reveurs, follow it everywhere, whilst it’s amazing performers, of whom Celia is one, produce seemingly impossible illusions and feats of agility. The circus becomes ever more astounding as the apprentices’ spells become tangled up amongst it, creating amazing exhibits such as a garden made totally of ice and a wishing tree. But few realise how much is at risk as Celia and Marco’s deadly contest draws to its long-awaited conclusion – one of them must die, yet the bond the pair have formed means that neither is prepared to let the other go and they determine to find a way out of their impossible situation.
This debut by authoress Erin Morgenstern left me practically speechless; it was frankly ingenious. The delightful dream-like quality to parts of the book created brilliant mystery and ambiance, and setting the book around the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century really was a lovely touch.
Intoxicatingly beautiful, Morgenstern’s writing has a delicate touch, making it flow beautifully and elegantly. The story had me firmly in its clutches from the start, and didn’t loosen its grip once. I adored the concept of the circus itself, and the way that it was manipulated by the contestants. The descriptions of the exhibits they create were wonderful and I was also very impressed by the characters’ costumes, described by the author in intricate detail and invoking something of the colourful performers who wore them.
The vast array of characters connected to the circus were a delight to experience, but the story belonged to the young apprentices; their battle, and the love that grows between them. I really felt for Celia and Marco: they’re tied into a contest that neither of them agreed to and aren’t completely sure the rules of, let alone what they have to do to either win or lose. All they really know is there’s no way out of the arrangement and no possibility of a happy ending.
Utterly absorbing and original, this tale is an absolutely astounding debut from a clearly very talented authoress. I defy anyone not to wish, just a little, to be able to run off and join this circus.