Le Cirque des Reves, the Circus of Dreams , is a mysterious and beautiful circus that appears without fanfare in the empty fields near town. It is open only at night, and is created solely of black and white. The circus is home to performers of all shapes, sizes, and talents, and no performer is more impressive than Celia the Illusionist. Celia is not only special because she is an impressive illusionist though, she is also one of the very few people that knows the circus is really a battleground between two illusionists who have been trained since a very young age to compete in a “game.” Celia doesn’t know her opponent is Marco, assistant to the proprietor of the circus. Even without knowing each other, Marco and Celia both know they are not happy being part of a game where they don’t know all the rules. They begin to collaborate, share ideas, and ultimately fall hopelessly in love. Their controllers don’t like this, and decide to become involved. Fearing fatal repercussions, Celia and Marco must find a way to save the circus and lives of everyone involved if anyone is to survive their game.
This book was nothing like what I was expecting, and I loved it. It was not the sort that ends chapters with cliffhanger endings, or worries more about the love story than the plot (although admittedly, the love story–or at least relationship between Marco and Celia–was a big part of the plot in this one), it was more the kind that has you emotionally invested in the characters before you quite know how it happened. You couldn’t help but love almost everyone you met, from Celia and Marco, to the Murray twins Widget and Poppet, to Friedrick Thiessen clockmaker turned journalist who becomes one of the first to follow the circus around the globe. The reader watches how all these characters interact, and how their choices affect everyone in the circus. It’s quite impressive.
I also loved how Morgenstern used the timeline in her novel. Events did not happen in order. At first, this was an annoyance, because I would often have to flip back to the beginning of the chapter to figure out if this action was happening before or after the previous action. But the farther along the story went, and the closer it came to all the stories coming together, it was easier to follow and wasn’t so bothersome. I ended up really liking the technique, even though originally I did not.
There was something about this novel that was just magical, there’s no other way to describe it. Even though the circus moved around to different locations around the globe, and the story wasn’t set in a fantasy location, you still felt transported to another time and place-which is exactly what the fictional circus was supposed to do for its visitors. You felt like part of the story, not like you were reading the story, which doesn’t happen very often in the stories I read. I may want to be part of those worlds, or imagine I am in that universe, but that’s not quite the same as the feeling I got reading this book. I even felt like I could picture the inside of the various tents in the circus, like the ice garden and the tents with all the clouds. It was really gorgeously described.
This is one of the best stories I have read in awhile. I was totally involved, and even wish the circus would show up outside my town. I would definitely be a red-scarf wearing reveur.