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Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Night Circus

The Night Circus

Erin Morgenstern
Doubleday, 2011

The Night Circus opens at midnight and closes at dawn. It travels around the world and there has never been anything like it. Spanning a time period from 1973 to 1903, this complicated and ambitious story is about a competition between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in "a game," in which each must use their powers of illusion to best the other. Their battling arena is the Night Circus, a world renown magical place that inspires a cult following. Unbeknownst to them, this game is a duel to the death, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

Celia’s father is Prospero, a famous magician. When she turns up after the death of her mother, he is amazed and delighted to see she was gifted with certain talents that he could develop and use in the competition. Marco was an orphan, picked up by Prospero’s opponent, in order to be trained as a worthy adversary. Marco’s job was to manage the circus, carefully and unobtrusively manipulating the people, acts, and illusions in order to attract – and then overpower – his opponent. As the two battle each other within the elements of the circus, they grow to care about each other in ways their mentors never expected.

This novel is extremely unusual, sometimes confusing, and may be too complicated for some. It alternates between characters’ perspectives and time periods for each chapter, which meant I was doing a lot of paging back and forth to keep track of the timeline and plot. Rave reviews of this fantasy make it worth reading; just be prepared for an intense journey that requires much brain power to keep everything straight. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it as much as I appreciated the author’s skill in keeping all the balls in the air at the same time.


This is the author’s first novel.

Other titles you may enjoy:

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (2004)
In nineteenth-century England, all is going well for rich, reclusive Mr Norell, who has regained some of the power of England's magicians from the past, until a rival magician, Jonathan Strange, appears and becomes Mr Norrell's pupil.

Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker (2007)
A medieval devil speaks directly to the reader, his tone murderous one moment, seductive the next, in a memoir allegedly penned in the year 1438. The demon has embedded himself in the very words of this tale of terror, turning the book itself into a dangerous object, laced with menace only too ready to break free and exert its power.

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal (2010)
In a Jane Austen-inspired alternate universe, two sisters, one beautiful and the other skilled in the glamour arts, test the limits of their gifts on an unscrupulous suitor.


  1. Beautiful world. She has a crazy wonderful imagination. I wish there would have been as much beauty and detail in the characters. Story was new and different but did leave me wanting.

  2. I read this book after a co-worker suggested it and I want to read it again. The magical-realism makes an enchanted world I would love to step into. However if I were to step into that world, I wouldn't know if it was real or just an illusion. Love the diction and imagery and the clever ending and telling of the story.