[A quick note: This book has been out in the world for over a decade now. It’s been talked about extensively. It’s heavily hyped. I’m always really nervous about well known, hyped books. I hate being disappointed. THAT WAS NOT THE CASE here. Yet again, this is another “I can’t believe it took me so long to read this,” type of book. But I’m glad I finally did, and it was a real pleasure.]
“𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐢𝐫𝐜𝐮𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠. 𝐍𝐨 𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐞𝐝𝐞 𝐢𝐭. 𝐈𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞, 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧𝐲𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐝𝐚𝐲 𝐢𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭.“—Erin Morgenstern
This was magic, pure, undiluted magic. This book felt like cool, crisp nights, hot apple cider, the mystery of autumn, the excitement of surprise, chocolate mice, cinnamon, bonfires, intrigue, and the beauty of creativity. I had no idea what to expect going in, but “different” and “unique” are the best two words I can think of to describe what I discovered. A story that tends toward the unexpected, just like the circus it depicts.
Towering clusters of black and white tents. Gates that don’t open until dark. Attractions even the wildest imaginations can’t dream up. WOW! Now I’m dreaming that one day it will appear in the fields around my town.
“The circus arrives without warning,” is the opening line of the story, and it couldn’t be more PERFECT. Why? This entire book arrived without warning, right into the depths of my heart. It’s beautiful, and immersive. Every time I picked it up, I was transported to the wonders of the magical circus: Le Cirque Des Reves.
Despite being a love story at heart—and the tale of a competition that spans over a decade—I considered this more about the journey of the circus, more than anything else. It followed over ten POVs, starting with the characters instrumental to the circus’s origins, and ending with completely different characters than it began with. All of them are woven deftly together to build the tale of how the circus came to be, how it grew to greatness, and how it nearly died. The grand finale swept me off my feet, in a way that brought tears to my eyes as I read the final pages. That business card with Bailey’s email? If you know, you know!
The chapter headings are VERY important. I didn’t realize the timeline was jumping until about 25% in. After that, I put the pieces together. I actually really loved how it jumped. It created additional intrigue that wouldn’t have been there if I didn’t have hints about what was coming. Great plot device!
“𝐀𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐧𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬, 𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐲 𝐨𝐫 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐰𝐢𝐬𝐞. 𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬 𝐤𝐞𝐞𝐩 𝐠𝐨𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐧, 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐥𝐚𝐩𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐛𝐥𝐮𝐫, 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 𝐢𝐬 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐬𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫'𝐬 𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 𝐢𝐬 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐬, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐦 𝐦𝐚𝐲 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐝.” —Erin Morgenstern
A little about the story, which I probably should have started with. It’s set in the last decade-ish of the 1800s so it has a Victorian-esk feel. This was a time when wonders walked the fine line between technology and magic, when so many things seemed possible. The magic wasn’t in your face, but it was definitely there. After all, it’s a magic circus hiding in plain sight. When two rivals decide to hold a competition, they decide the circus will be the stage. Thus, they each pick a contestant, and the two contestants spend much of their lives competing against each other, each trying to “out-magic” the other in a game of chess.
This is a story I will absolutely read again. Not necessarily to pick up on details I might have missed. But I mainly because like all the rêveurs, with their black attire and splashes of red color, I want to visit the circus over and over again, even if I’ve already seen all the attractions. I have become a rêveur at heart. I want to give this book ALL THE STARS. It gets a standing ovation from me. Not for being edge-of-your-seat suspense, or having the typical action packed, in your face plot, but for being truly immersive, for transporting me to a different world, and making me fall head over heels in love with a circus I’ll never get to visit in real life. 𝐌𝐘 𝐑𝐀𝐓𝐈𝐍𝐆: 𝟓/𝟓 ⭐️