I've always loved the circus, and I found the paper cutout elements of the cover quite amusing. So off I went to the register with several books in my arms, including this novel which I do hope is really worth the hype.
Fortunately, The Night Circus is one very enjoyable and well-written novel. Morgenstern's story may appear derivative to some (i.e., elements of Cirque du Freak, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell), but the novel's storyline holds water on its own. Aside from the author's apparent talent for describing setting vividly, Morgenstern does a great job in coming up with the most eccentric characters in fiction that I've read recently.
The novel is, at its heart, a love story. It's a romantic tale between two people (Cecilia and Marco) who have been trained in illusion, and tangible and mental manipulation. Unfortunately, they have been pitted against each other by their masters, and their masters have chosen a circus as the arena. To complicate things further, Cecilia and Marco both fell in love with one another much to the chagrin of their mentors. They soon learn that, by the end of the game, only one will emerge alive.
Morgenstern's novel works in so many levels that it would appeal to a wide range of readers. First, the love story between the protagonists would appeal to fans of romantic fiction. Fantasy readers will definitely love the scenes where magic plays a central role. The Night Circus's air of mystery and motley of performers will delight readers of all ages.
I was surprised that, with all the elements that Morgenstern brings into the novel, the story isn't a mess, with the subplots flying all over the place. The writing is very controlled, but the pace of the novel is oh so deliciously taxi meter. I loved this circus. I sure hope you find the time to step inside and see the wonders waiting for you, dear reader, underneath the striped tents of the night circus.
Read this book if:
- You're big on circuses.
- You love outstanding debut fiction.
- You believe that true magic really exists.