The night circus : a novel

“The circus arrives without warning.

"No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

"The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen. No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky; countless tents of varying shapes and sizes, with an elaborate wrought-iron fence encasing them in a colorless world. Even what little ground is visible from outside is black or white, painted or powdered, or treated with some other circus trick.

"But it is not open for business. Not just yet.

"Within hours everyone in town has heard about it. By afternoon the news has spread several towns over. Word of mouth is a more effective method of advertisement than typeset words and exclamation points on paper pamphlets or posters. It is impressive and unusual news, the sudden appearance of a mysterious circus. People marvel at the staggering height of the tallest tents. They stare at the clock that sits just inside the gates that no one can properly describe.

"And the black sign painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, the one that reads: Opens at Nightfall Closes at Dawn."

With this simple, and yet evocative, description Erin Morgenstern begins The Night Circus. The circus in question is Le Cirque des Rêves, the circus of dreams. As described, it appears almost magically, following no known schedule or path, and disappears just as suddenly and quietly when it moves on. Le Cirque des Rêves is a wonder that captivates and entrances those lucky enough to visit. In fact, there is a small but devoted group of repeat visitors that have created a network to follow the circus, as best they can, and refer to themselves as rêveurs(dreamers). But Le Cirque des Rêves is so much more than a circus. It is also the arena for a challenge. Two ancient beings have selected apprentices, Celia and Marco, and trained them from childhood for the sole purpose of competing in this challenge. With the circus as their canvas, Celia and Marco create and enhance the attractions of the circus, both honing and enhancing their skills, when something altogether unexpected happens. Celia and Marco fall in love. A deep and intoxicating love that makes the air prickle with sparks, literally, when they are together. What the apprentices don’t know, however, is that there can be only one survivor at the end of this challenge.

With descriptions that are lush and evocative, engaging characters and an intriguing story, Erin Morgenstern’s first novel is difficult to put down once begun. It’s the unusual novel that is both a page turner, because you desperately want to know what will happen next, and something to be savored, with rich descriptions giving life to both the characters and the locales. You can almost smell the popcorn as you read about the characters walking through Le Cirque des Rêves. The novel crosses several genres, blending fantasy, romance and a certain amount of intrigue. Like Le Cirque des Rêves itself, The Night Circus will appeal to a broad audience.