The Night Circus Review
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Author Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel, The Night Circus is an enchanting tale, set in the late 1800s, of two illusionists battling each other in a magical contest that’s set within “Le Cirque des Reves,” or The Circus of Dreams. The circus appears in town, with no fanfare or notice, to amaze attendees with its gardens of ice, mazes of clouds, bonfires that never go out, and tent after tent of performers of unheard-of feats.

Le Cirque des Reves mesmerizes fans throughout the world and inspires a group of “Reveres”—fans who follow the circus. But it is all a backdrop for the secret contest between Celia and Marco, who, as children, were bound by their father figures to compete against each other, creating illusions and manipulating objects, though they don’t know the rules or how the winner is determined.

  
 
The Night Circus is lush and vivid, a treat for the imagination. The split narrative can be confusing at times, as readers are sent back and forth in time, but chapters are never boring. The plot, however, is slow to develop. Readers will feel suspense building around the Celia and Marco as they figure out the rules of their contest and fall head over heels in love with each other, but the book is generally one long, descriptive narrative of the circus and the people surrounding it.

The supporting characters are so well imagined—like the tattooed contortionist, Tsukiko, who can turn her body in amazing shapes, or Anna Padva, retired prima ballerina and costume designer of the circus—that they could exist in novels of their own. Sadly, they and other supporting characters are lost to the vivid backdrop and the story of Celia and Marco, and they come away totally underused.

Others—like twins Popit and Widget, who age while others involved in the circus never seem to, and their friend, Baily, who dreams of a life bigger than that of a sheep farmer—shine just as brightly as the circus. Baily’s simple desire to dream and the innocence of his youth remind readers of that innocent time when anything seems possible.

The Night Circus is not for everyone. It’s slow to develop, and it may frustrate some readers who love action. But if you love a bit of magic, you may think it’s the best debut novel you’ve ever read.

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