If ever Ray Bradbury wrote love stories, I imagine this is exactly the sort of tale he would have written, full of magic and mystery and wonder – a little light on plot, but full of enchantment.
Imagine Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, except that our setting is Victorian England at the turn of the century and our star-crossed lovers are a pair of winsome young magicians who, alas, have been bound at birth (or near enough) by a magical pact that requires one of them to out-survive the other. Their battleground? Le Cirque des Reves, a “circus of dreams,” populated by tents housing wonders that the doomed young lovers create as tributes to their love: animated carousels, gravity-defying cloud mazes, animatronic menageries, wishing trees, gardens comprised entirely of ice, and other such enchanting (and enchanted) curiosities.
The tale is populated by a cast of richly imagined characters, from our appealing lovers Marco and Celia to Chandresh Christophe Lefevre, the circus’s Willy Wonka-esque proprietor; from the inscrutable contortionist Tsukiko to the preternaturally perceptive architect Ethan Barris; from Prospero, Celia’s irascible, misanthropic magician father, to the uncanny twins Poppet and Widget.
Rather than detracting from the story, the author’s deliberate decision not to explain of the tale’s metaphysical underpinnings adds to the enchantment of the tale, inviting us readers to cast away the constraints of reality and embrace the possibility of a world in which the magic of love is real.
In real life, these types of tales never end well; fortunately for us, however, Morgenstern isn’t the sort of author to be bound by narrative convention, so instead we get a wholly lovely and – yes – magical ending, in which the lovers, despite all the obstacles and tragedies scattered in their path, create their own happily ever after and the circus lives on, appearing (one presumes) to those reveurs who continue to believe.
(And speaking of happily ever after, is it just a happy coincidence that the author of this magically romantic confection shares a surname with S. Morgenstern, the legendary author of that other legendary romantic confection, The Princess Bride?)