The Night Circus

What if your first kiss was held suspended in time, bestowed as all in the room succumb to the power of magic?

There’s no doubt Erin Morgenstern has created magic. In her debut novel, two opponents fight in a lifelong battle of skill versus skill in a mysterious challenge that threatens to rip the world apart. Well, some of it anyway.

The black and white tents of Les Cirques des Reves appear without warning, suddenly occupying space that was empty the day before. Drawn by its mystery, townspeople enter and are enthralled by nights filled with mystery and feats of extraordinary talent. But who is behind it all?

Bound as children to a contest they do not understand, raised without love by men they barely know, Celia and Marco are rivals in an arena that defies convention. It is a dreamland, one that speaks to the hearts, souls and imaginations of not only the audience, but the creators of each exhibit. Dazzling and intricate, the circus is a living thing, and perhaps Morgenstern’s most brilliant invention. Every decadent page speaks of love, betrayal, hope, mystery and magic. It’s a love story, but it’s so much more. As pawns trapped in a cruel wager between two powerful, magical and proud men, Celia and Marco must not only discover the nature of the challenge, but how to play and ultimately win. Each tent is not only a display of immense talent, but a secret token of affection to one another. Poetry runs down the trunk of a tree, an ice forest grows and blooms and a reflecting pool transcends grief and loss.

I was drawn in by the early buzz, but skeptical of the label “Harry Potter for adults.” I take issue with this. It is a desperate plug for publishers and entertainment houses in a post-Harry Potter and Twilight world to gain what they love most: money. First of all, Harry Potter is just as much for adults as it is for kids and teens. It’s just that good. Tread carefully when invoking Harry’s name, people! Anyway, I received my copy, and from the very first line, I was entranced. The hook is fantastic. It’s a confident work, and I will smile whenever I see splashes of red alongside black & white. I’m certain it will be a trend, with the book generating its own reveurs. The book is not for the impatient: though the chapters are brief, each slice of the circus is delivered leisurely. Glimpses are provided through different characters, descriptions of challenges created and answered and through the players themselves. It’s slow, but maddening only because the desire to know more about the circus is so strong.

I want to say more, but some tents are left better explored at one’s own pace. Enjoy.

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

Imagine a world that has grown tired of you. Not just tired, it has systematically and efficiently eliminated all of your kind. Except you. You are the last, and you are tired.

Jacob Marlowe is 200 years old. He’s literally been there, done that. Healthy and hunted, he makes evading the WOCOP (World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena) look easy, even if it requires heels and makeup. Between his existential crisis and tortured memories, Jake feeds. He is blunt, jaded and consumed with ennui as he describes his appetites for flesh, devoured or sexually dominated, without holding back. He wants to die, but the world isn’t quite through with him yet. He cannot repress his murderous nature, nor does he try. He simply copes, and keeps moving.

Beyond a thinking plot (are humans really better?) there’s action aplenty. Graphic, brutal action. Duncan’s biting cynicism stands in stark relief from the cruel mechanisms of lycanthropy. Literary references and modern British prose can take several pages to encapsulate the reader, but the payoff is worth it in this unique take on a potentially exhausted genre.

Recommended for the reader seeking a good gory romp this Halloween. I’ll not give too much away, but we may see more of Duncan’s universe. ( I hope so!)

Room

Room
 
Imagine living in an 11×11 foot room for all of your life with nothing but a soundproof sky-light and an old television as windows to the outside world. Imagine that your only friends are the furniture and occasional insects that inhabit this room. 
 
This is the setting for 5-year-old narrator Jack and his Ma in Emma Donoghue’s 
Man Booker Prize winning novel, Room.
 
The reader is invited into Jack’s world on his fifth birthday, and one gets a glimpse 
of the horror of their situation and the undeniable bond of love between a mother 
and her child. Jack is an extremely intelligent and curious child and his mother has 
realized now that Jack has turned five and has even more questions than ever that it is time for her to tell him the truth about her kidnapping and his subsequent birth at the hands of their captor, “Old Nick.”  
 
To complicate matters further, Ma has told Jack for his whole life, in an effort to make his situation more bearable, that the people, things and places he has seen on television and read in his collection of five books are all make believe. Now Jack has to struggle with the reality of his existence in a world much larger than the confines of Room.

Room is a beautiful and poignant look at the human will to survive and the deep bond between a mother and child and the lengths that they will go to for each other.