Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Publisher /Format: Random House audio,13 hrs,40 minutes; 400 pg. equivalent
Year of publication: 2011
Subject: magic, illusions, circus
Setting: fictional circus
Genre: fiction: Magical realism, fantasy
The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen. No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky; countless tents of varying shapes and sizes, with an elaborate wrought-iron fence encasing them in a colorless world. Even what little ground is visible from outside is black or white, painted or powdered, or treated with some other circus trick.
But it is not open for business. Not just yet.
Within hours everyone in town has heard about it. By afternoon the news has spread several towns over. Word of mouth is a more effective method of advertisement than typeset words and exclamation points on paper pamphlets or posters. It is impressive and unusual news, the sudden appearance of a mysterious circus. People marvel at the staggering height of the tallest tents. They stare at the clock that sits just inside the gates that no one can properly describe.
And the black sign painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, the one that reads:
Opens at Nightfall
Closes at Dawn
I don't normally read or enjoy pure fantasy, but from this point I was absolutely captured. I could not put this down. At one point, as I was listening in the car, I drove an extra 10 miles out of my way because I did not want to stop. The story is one of pure magic.
A young woman, Celia Bowen, daughter of a famous magician, is trained by her father to use and enhance very exceptional powers she has. She becomes the premier illusionist in the "Cirque de Reves". Her father enters her (without her knowledge) into a contest of magical wits and powers against another magician - the protegè of the circus' owner, an old rival. This young man Marco also does not know at first that he is locked into this combat. As both young people grow, and become more adept at their powers, they are drawn romantically to each other; the circus gains in fame; more fans are engaged; and more incredible actors are introduced to us. The suspense builds beautifully as the reader knows that there is a contest, we know who the contestants are, but we don't know exactly what is involved. We are as much in the fog about the details as the main characters. Even with a constantly back and forth time line, we have no trouble hanging on to the illusion. We sit on the edge of our seats in that circus tent waiting to see what happens next, and every time a new magic occurs we wonder: "Is this it? Is this the contest?" Later, as the suspense builds and the characters become more involved, we undergo another kind of suspense waiting for the climax.
I can't say anything more. I can't spoil this fabulous, wonderful, engaging, and incredible story telling. It is a book to be read in any format, and enjoyed over and over again. It's definitely going into my personal permanent collection, and into my library's collection too. Grab some popcorn, settle back in your favorite reading venue and treat yourself. It's the best thing Santa can put in your book pile. Prepare to be seduced.