I picked up this book because everyone is reading it. I see it all over the place, even in the grocery store check-out line. And when books finally hit my suburban checkout line, I know that I better read them. I like to read what everyone is reading to keep in the cultural conversations surrounding these popular books.
And it’s summer. This book is an excellent summer read. It also comes on the tails of the Harry Potter obsession with magic, and I think it is a more “grown-up” look at magic, perfect for those Potter fans who have grown up along with the series.
The book is a bit of a romance, I admit. But I think there’s enough magic in there to appeal to male readers as well.
While the cover seems to indicate the story is about a circus, it’s really more about a contest between two magicians, pitted against each other from their youth in a mysterious competition that even they don’t fully understand.
A young boy and a young girl are chosen as competitors by ominous mentors who shape them, train them, and push them to excel in magical skills.
The story becomes entwined with the story of a circus that appears in town and countrysides by night, with a black and white aesthetic and unique acts. Crowds flock to the circus, which is more than a circus, as this challenge is playing out in its tents.
There are some confusing points where new characters are introduced for no clear reason, and they seem to distract from the momentum of the story, but I quickly forgive the author when we get back to the main storyline that keeps pushing ahead.
Even though dates are given at the start of each chapter, I often found myself wondering where or when we were in the story, but I eventually gave up trying to figure it out and just went along for the ride.
Don’t expect any great literary feats here, but expect to have a hard time putting it down. And enjoy a little escape into a magical world that has moments of stark realism, giving it a surprising edge of believability.
Expect a movie version soon.