I’ve recently been lucky enough to get my hands on an advanced reader’s copy of the next great tale; a story of illusion, magic, and intrigue, set in a dreamlike circus at the turn of the nineteenth century. In Erin Morgenstern’s debut, The Night Circus spellbinds its readers and leaves a magical footprint in the world of fantasy.
Morgenstern’s story starts with a small glimpse of the circus, a black and white nighttime spectacle that arrives as suddenly as it disappears at the end of each run. Throughout the tale, the circus plays more than the role of the setting; it is it’s own character by which all other parts of our story revolves. At particular points in the story, one page descriptions of the circus, told from a first-person perspective, give the reader a vivid and detailed picture of the elusive circus, making us a patron and providing an opportunity to feel the same excitement. Interwoven throughout the story, Morgenstern continues to paint us an appealing world, crafted to the tiniest detail with intense sensory images.
The plot is slow-moving, not glaringly so, but for some, this may seem plodding. However, for readers with an imagination, it is the perfect compliment to a story riddled with magic and slow-rising suspense. Our main characters are Celia and Marco. Celia is the daughter of a famous illusionist, Prospero the Enchanter. We quickly learn that Celia exhibits the same talents as her brilliant, but emotionally abusive, father. Marco is plucked from an orphanage by a man of the same trade. The two children are bound together in a challenge they know little about, but they spend their lives preparing for this game. The hidden twist? There can only be one victor, and for the loser, death is the prize. It isn’t until their paths cross at the elusive Night Circus that they begin to partake in the challenge. From tent to tent inside the circus, they create attractions, enhanced by their magic. Yet, through these wondrous enchantments, they find beauty in the other competitor, eventually discover each other and fall in love.
The most impressive aspect to The Night Circus is it’s format and depth. While it is a tale about illusionists, the structure of the story is an illusion in itself. Morgenstern craftily reveals components of the mystery at just the right moments, like peeling back the layers of an onion. The reader is able to come to their own conclusions with each turn of the page, but the characters do not show their cards immediately. Each entertainer, proprietor, and guest of the circus becomes an integral part of Marco and Celia’s journey, as well as to the success and continuation of the circus. Morgenstern beautifully unfolds every individual story with perfect timing.
Set to release in September 2011, The Night Circus is the next great fantasy novel for readers of all ages. Erin Morgenstern’s riveting debut reveals a magical world in a delicate balance, piquing the reader’s curiosity through illusion and masterful storytelling.