I’ve heard an awful lot about this book and every review I’ve read has been singing the praises of this book. Therefore when I saw this in a book shop, with this absolutely gorgeous cover, I couldn’t not buy it and give it a shot. I was slightly surprised to see this book being marketed as a children’s classic, but that could only be extra indorsement, right? This book was a lot more complex and detailed than I expected it to be and it was very different to the book that I was expecting in my mind. I did feel a little underwhelmed when I finished it, purely because my expectations had been so high and so unlike what the book was actually about. The characters were very diverse and intriguing and I really liked the switching chapters, which followed a different character each time. This was a very enjoyable book and I was able to read it fairly quickly despite my edition being over 600 pages, but it certainly wasn’t what I was really expecting.
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air. Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves. Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way–a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a “game” to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.
There are many, many different characters in this book and despite liking a lot of them, I couldn’t connect or relate to any of them. Celia, who I guess could be considered one of the main characters, was probably my favourite of the bunch because she was so stubborn and strong-willed and is definitely a very tough cookie. I did feel like her romance with Marco did slightly appear out of nowhere and I really didn’t feel any connection between the two of them. As well as feeling no connection for any of the characters, I didn’t understand the need to kill of one of the characters. I felt like I didn’t know any of their backstories or their histories so I couldn’t fully get on board with them. I also think the characters could have done with some more humour to lift the mood and tone of the book, which, in my opinion, stayed the same throughout the whole book.
Another thing about this book that I only really realised after reading this book, was that the story really wasn’t clear. What was that ending? What was really happening? I know that it might sound harsh, and maybe I’m just in one of those moods today, but I’m still questioning what the point of some of the events were in this book. I’m all for keeping information from the audience but not if they’re still wondering what the heck is happening at the end of the book which is the boat that I’m in. One thing I did really enjoy was the description used in this book. The atmosphere created within the circus was really magical and intoxicating and exactly what I was expecting the book to be and what I wish the rest of the book was filled with.
Overall, this book was good but not what I was expecting. I wish the story and the characters had been developed further, and there had been some more humour and lightness added to the pages. I know that some people adore this book, and maybe I stabbed myself in the foot with my high expectations, but it just wasn’t for me, so I’m giving it 3.5 out of 5 stars, rounded down to a 3.