When I think of circuses, my mind automatically goes to a mixture of Cirque du Soleil and Mommy Fortuna’s dark and twisty carnival in Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn. Yeah. It’s a weird mixture. No clowns, though.
I’d heard about Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus more as a Storynexus game extension that my friend got me addicted to. Well, actually, it’s all her fault for getting me addicted to a lot of the Failbetter Games text adventures (Fallen London being the best and most comprehensive of the lot). What I did find I loved about the Night Circus when I played it was that it was ridiculously pretty and it seemed worth delving into, book-wise.
And here I am.
Just the cover illustration itself would have compelled me to pick up the novel for reading pleasure. I mean, come on, how pretty is that illustration?
Anyway, it’s kind of hard to describe what The Night Circus is all about. I mean, I suppose it’s about les Cirque des Reves (there’s an accent there somewhere…), the Circus of Dreams. I suppose it’s about the people working in the circus and/or attuned to it. I suppose it’s about a “deadly” competition. And I supposed it’s about a love story. It gets confusing what it tries to be, and reading the latter part of the Goodreads summary didn’t really help me in the long-run, since it sounds overhyped. Suffice to say that The Night Circus is about a circus that opens at night, with a set of magical and non-magical characters who put on a good show whilst dealing with their 99 problems.
I wasn’t really feeling the “fierce competition,” which seemed to have dragged on for almost two decades, and perhaps this was due to my having read the audiobook instead of the print version. It also didn’t help that I wasn’t able to keep track of the dates, without having to rewind portions of the audio to the beginning (and let’s be honest, that was cumbersome, so I didn’t bother at all). Still, Jim Dale’s voice narration didn’t detract from the story, in fact, I think he made it even more fantastical (thankfully similar to his distinct Pushing Daisies narration), and when he voiced over the second point-of-view sections? Phenomenal (and this is saying much, because I tend to hate second POVs for stories). Audio performance aside, I thought the book itself was styled and written well. I could imagine myself inside the circus, walking through the Ice Garden and stepping inside a tent to watch the illusionist perform her “magic”.
So writing and description and aesthetics-wise, I thought The Night Circus hit the mark. I’m not sure I can say the same for the focus characters, the story, and the pacing. But I think I mentioned that heftily in my Goodreads review already.
THERE IS AN UPSIDE.
And I’m talking about black and white pumpkin cookies!
One distinct take-away I had from The Night Circus was the color (or, well, shade/tint) theme of the Circus of Dreams. The circus performers and motif were described to be decked in black and white, with no hint of color save the red scarves people wore to distinguish themselves as reveurs (again, there’s an accent there somewhere). I really liked that image in my head, and I was certainly capable of relaying that to my baking!
My cookies didn’t come out as perfectly as the recipe I used for it, but that was mostly my fault for doing a lot of substitutions, since I didn’t have every ingredient handy. I also went with a dark chocolate as opposed to unsweetened, but again, that was mostly because I ran out of confectionery sugar at some point and ended up having to use straight-up melted chocolate.
I’m not sure if this counts as a Food and Fandom addition as well, because while I am a fan of the aesthetic nature of The Night Circus, I wouldn’t say I was a big fan of the story. But eh, why the heck not, I’ll count it!