I had heard a lot of good things about The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I was looking forward to an interesting story with a bit of mystery added in. As I began to read, and after I got through a third of the book, the interesting story and mystery finally started to bloom. Up to that point I needed to keep going back to other pages and chapters to keep all the characters straight – there ARE a lot of them!
The novel begins with an almost ominous description of the circus’ arrival. The Night Circus arrives suddenly, without notice or warning. It is called Le Cirque du Reves – The Circus of Dreams – and inside the numerous black and white striped tents are unique experiences and fantastical amazements. It only opens as night falls and always closes promptly with the dawn. The tents are set up in a maze-like arrangement. Patrons are encouraged to wander throughout the grounds, enter any tent and stay as long as they like. All the circus performers are clothed in black, white or grey. There are reveurs that follow the circus wherever it goes because they are enthralled with all that it offers. The reveurs wear long black coats and red scarves – the only color that is easily spotted as the patrons wander around. Even though the circus appears without notice, the entrance is teeming with patrons when it is about to open. Inside the gates there is a beautiful, hand-crafted clock that has been created especially for the circus. It is so phenomenal, watching it is a performance in itself.
Just below the surface of the circus and it’s performers, another story is playing out. There is a long planned-for competition between two young magicians, Celia and Marco. They both have been trained since childhood for a game, a challenge that pits one against the other. Unbeknownst to them, the game will end when only one of them is left alive. Adding to the ever building mystery and tension, the two have fallen deeply in love with each other. When they touch the lights flicker and rooms get warm. When the truth about the challenge is finally understood, they both go about planning a way to save the circus and remain alive, to love each other eternally.
Mystery, fantasy and a complicated love story combined with the author’s writing skills make for a wonderful and acclaimed first novel. Although it is hard to keep all the various characters straight at first, the story eventually gets tied up in a compact knot. The book ends as though this could be the first in a series. Changes have taken place, but the circus goes on, arriving unannounced and opening only once the night descends.