Cage Match

Two young apprentices are groomed for a magical grudge match and thrust into the ring. Make that three rings, as the black-and-white stripes of circus tents form the bars of the cage wherein our young gladiators are forced to fight to the finish. This is no ordinary good vs. evil standoff or run-of-the-mill wizard’s duel, however. There is no open confrontation in this battle of showmanship. One of the combatants never sets foot in the arena, vying for the title belt from afar. As the opponents push each other to new heights of ability and imagination they gain a mutual admiration for one another. When the distant contestant is unmasked, that admiration becomes attraction. Inexorably bound to battle it out, can they overcome their emotions and destroy the foe who inspires their performance? The result would be a Pyrrhic victory and the loss of every attraction (both the circus variety and the personal) they built together.

If I cut you down to a thing I can use,
I fear there will be nothing good left of you
“Lose Control” by Evanescence

Evanescence is a good fit for this deeply atmospheric debut novel. Erin Morgenstern is both an artist and an author, and she has designed a deck of tarot cards to accompany the book. I imagine it being something along the lines of Tara McPherson meets tarot, although it will probably be more reserved in its imagery. Morgenstern is not reserved in depicting the imagery within The Night Circus, and her vivid artistic descriptions add to the languid, timeless sense of the book. I could have done without some of the intercessory chapters attempting to place me in the circus as a spectator – I was already in the story – although I can understand Morgenstern’s intent to exhibit as much of the circus as possible and keep the reader entranced. The final coda felt tacked on; it kept my interest, but it felt like a separate story. The story Morgenstern unfolds is magically self-contained, like a circus appearing overnight, and needs no addenda. Certain elements are reminiscent of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, one of my favorite books, and there are traces of movies like The Prestige, Despicable Me, and MegaMind as well.


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