Published in 2016 by Vintage | Originally published in 2011 | Five feathers
Summary from Goodreads:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The black sign, painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, reads:
Opens at Nightfall
Closes at Dawn
As the sun disappears beyond the horizon, all over the tents small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears.
Le Cirque des Rêves
The Circus of Dreams.
Now the circus is open.
Now you may enter.
I decided to pick this up because I recently read Caraval by Stephanie Garber, and a lot of people had been comparing it to this one. Though I can see where they’re coming from, I must say that I much prefer this one.
My favourite part of this is how atmospheric it was. I think I really helped that you get to read from several different perspectives, so you get to see things from both inside the circus and from an outsider’s point of view. Then you also get to read from people who are somewhere in between, neither part of the circus nor entirely detached from it. I liked that a lot.
I think that it helps to not know too much about this before you start reading – the synopsis I included in the beginning of this review is pretty much all you need. You’re not supposed to know or even understand everything that happens in it. I mean, not even the characters fully understand all the things that happen to them. Somehow, I liked that a lot too, because it adds to the mystery of the story, and weirdly enough, it made it seem more magical and almost real at the same time.
It also takes place during a very long period of time, which means that it jumps around a lot and unless you actually read the chapter headings it might be a little bit difficult to know what’s going on. But I liked that too, that everything eventually wraps up and comes together.
What surprised me was how occasionally dark it was – there would be these moments where the darkness within some of the characters shone through, sometimes in violent ways. That added a complexity and depth to the characters that I enjoyed reading about as well.
This is probably not for everyone, because it is pretty slow, and some things go unexplained (even though I stand by the belief that you’re not meant to understand everything, but I can see how it might annoy some readers). But if you’re into adult fantasy tinted with magical realism, I would definitely recommend this.