Book of the Month: Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

night-circusIt can be dangerous picking books from a list and hoping that they live up to the hype. The Night Circus has appeared over and over on book lover Pinterest boards so I decided it would be worth seeing what the big deal was about. I’m glad to say that this is a book that delivers.

Not too long ago I wrote a post discussing what Magical Realism meant. The Night Circus is a terrific example of magical realism. The story takes place in an ahistorical Victorian London and follows the lives of two young magical proteges. These magicians can perform actual magic and not just feats of illusion. These proteges and their masters create the Night Circus – Le Cirque des Rêves, the Circus of Dreams. A reality defying collection of curiosities that is only open from dusk to dawn.

The circus itself is surreal enough to make for intriguing reading. Among the expected acrobatic acts and contortionists there are tents that are full of the impossible. One is a garden created entirely from ice. Another, a cloud maze where you can fall from incredible heights without the fear of being hurt.

The story weaves it’s way through the lives of two magical proteges. Through the years, Prospero the Enchanter and Mr. A.H. have been locked in a rivalry to prove who is the better, more powerful magician.  Their students, Celia Bowen and Marcos Alisdair are the pawns in a dangerous competition in which they have been groomed their whole lives to play. Except, they are never given the rules of the competition. They must push to find what must be done and are never sure what the next step must be.

My review:

It’s not often when a book takes me by surprise. The Night Circus has an otherworldly quality that makes for perfect escapist reading. I was transported into this alternate world where magic is indeed real and palpable and filled with wonder. The story itself is fresh and full of ideas and creativity that haven’t been seen before, which is a feat in itself seeing how most stories I read are beaten dead from over use.

The best part of the book is the circus itself, the wonder and the thrills contained therein continually change and evolve to captivate and delight both reader and the characters that walk the pages.

I recommend this to anyone who likes magical realism, Cirque du Soleil, and surrealism. For those of you who like their fiction to keep both feel solidly on the ground, this might be a touch cerebral for you.

Like book reviews? Here are a few of my others:

Book of the Month: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

200px-Inkheart_bookThis month’s read is the YA fantasy Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke.  I’ve been wanting to read this book for years and was happy that I finally got around to doing it.  Watching and enjoying the movie might have played a small part as well.

Inkheart is one of those books that feels like it’s been around for a long while, although it’s only been around since 2003 for the German edition and 2005 for the English edition.

On an interesting side note, I tweeted about Inkheart and received a cute note from Cornelia Funke herself!

A super brief, spoiler free,  overview of the book:

The story is about a twelve-year-old girl named Meggie, and her father Mortimer, who everyone including Meggie calls Mo. Mo is a book binder with a secret rare gift of being able to read fictional characters and objects out of their books and into the real world. However, he didn’t discover that this had a great cost, for every person or item that leaves the book, something from the real world must return.

When Meggie was very young, Mo read several unsavory characters into the world by accident. These included the devious and unscrupulous Capricorn whose morals are essentially nonexistent, and Dustfinger a fire-eater and juggler who desperately wishes to return to his story. The cost? Meggie’s mother disappears into the book.

The book of Inkheart revolves around Mo and Meggie’s dealings with Capricorn and Dustfinger and Mo’s efforts to “read” his beloved wife back into the real world. There’s adventure, romance, magic, and danger.

My Review:

The book’s strongest points are its characters and its evocative writing. Funke captures different moments in the story using lovely metaphors and surprising analogies.  If you loved the use of language in Zuzak’s, Book Thief, then you would enjoy the writing style of Inkheart.

The characters are brilliant and perhaps the most intriguing bunch of people assembled to make a story that I’ve stumbled across.  They are each well written where it feels as if they jump to life off of the page (and in a way, that’s precisely what they do!) The villain Capricorn is a vile and repulsive storybook villain with no true redeemable qualities. Some might consider him an overly stereotyped villain, but you must remember that he is an actual storybook character and with that in mind he is written perfectly.

The lead character, Meggie, is a lover of books and stories, just like her father.  She is young, and makes mistakes, some of which cause huge problems. To her, it is almost as if her storybook world has come alive around her and she is both fascinated and terrified. She quickly learns that her actions and decisions have real consequences and she must be brave to do what she must.

Her father, Mo is a bookbinder who has been into action by external forces.  He wants nothing more than his wife back and a  peaceful life surrounded by piles and piles of beautiful books that he can share with his daughter.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who loves a well written story that takes them to new places.

To read more about Inkheart, check out these links: