“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.”
These are the opening lines to Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel, The Night Circus. In this story, magic is real but it is often disguised as illusion when presented to the general public. As you get into this story, you are introduced and surrounded by a rich world and memorable characters, each one instrumental to the running of this mysterious night circus that arrives without warning in your home town and is only open between the hours of dusk and dawn. The lavish descriptions of the attractions one finds at this circus is reason enough to pick up this book, but there is so much more. The story opens with a deal between two older magicians. Each has a protegé that is being groomed, and the old magicians set up a duel between the two young rivals. This duel doesn’t involve magic wands and rabbits out of top hats. In fact, it takes years to play out and neither side is entirely sure how to follow the rules. All that is known is that the night circus plays a central role in the resolution of the duel and the story. I can already see Tim Burton getting ahold of the rights to this story and casting, you guessed it, Johnny Depp and Helena Bohnam Carter as the two leads.
If stories involving circuses are your game, why not check out some of these other titles?
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The reminiscences of a 93-year-old former circus vet are told through a series of flashbacks. It was made into a well received movie in 2011 starring everyone’s favourite vampire, Rob Pattinson.
Carnivàle (HBO series, 2003-05)
This ambitious series about a travelling carnival in the 1930’s dust bowl America was supposed to last six seasons, but due to falling viewership it was cancelled after only two. Despite this, it is still well worth checking out. The story focuses on two main characters. Ben Hawkins, who has odd healing powers, joins a travelling carnival in the 1930’s and soon afterwards begins to have strange dreams about the future and his destiny; Brother Justin Crowe, a Methodist minister living with his sister in California, has similar dreams and visions as Ben Hawkins and also has the disturbing ability to bend people to his will. As the show progresses over two seasons, both storylines eventually converge.
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
A mysterious carnival comes to town just before Halloween. Its ringleader is “Mr. Dark,” who is able to gain control of the townsfolk one by one. The story is told through the eyes of Jim and Will, two thirteen year old boys who see through the carnival’s allure for the horror that it truly is. It’s wonderfully atmospheric and should not be left off of any “freaky carnival stories” list. Oh, and I also love it because Will’s dad is the town librarian and plays a crucial role in the final battle between good and evil. It was also made into a movie and a graphic novel.