The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern draws the reader in unexpectedly and fantastically, much like the novel’s namesake does for its visitors.
The circus serves as a venue for two magicians, Celia and Marco, who were chosen when they were children and trained their entire lives. They perform in a contest of skill and endurance without choice or consent and as a surprise to the other performers in the circus. The novel combines the perspectives of Celia, Marco, their mentors, other performers and the circus creators, with those of the visitors to the peculiar and wondrous Night Circus, which appears mysteriously and without warning. These different and colourful perspectives offset the black and white motif of the circus itself and reveal the magical and enigmatic qualities of the circus.
The magic of the circus world is demonstrated in a visceral and wondrous way so the reader truly feels it. From a fire that burns unnaturally and perpetually white to a garden made entirely of ice, the magic is made visible in the mind’s eye through elaborate and detailed descriptions. Within the circus’ black and white striped tents, the magical artworks of the competitors’ contributions are scattered, which give the circus the magic that keeps people coming back to it night after night.
Despite a few cliché love scenes, the novel remains strong, due to the focus being not entirely on the characters, but on the circus itself, which serves as the true, yet neutral protagonist. Although there are so many different characters, they are developed enough to be believable and relatable, though they may lack the personal connection a reader could get through a plot focused on one or two main characters only.
That being said, the motley crew of characters allows the reader to enjoy the company of certain characters, who will make prominent reappearances later, and to dislike other characters who will disappear from the page for a time. Though the novel starts off a bit slow, the vivid descriptions of characters and places lead the reader to the heart of the plot, at which point the novel becomes hard to put down. Anyone who loves magic, and wants to believe in a world in which magic exists should read this novel. Magic truly does exist.