Staff Review – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I have a distant memory of reading “The Night Circus” more than 10 years ago, but much like the novel itself, it remained a mystery. I decided to reread it (and since I remembered only that a circus was involved – which I think I just gathered from the title – I was essentially reading it for the first time) and I am so glad I did. “The Night Circus” is full of mystery, magic and more. While the novel focuses on many characters, it centers on the story of a challenge. Two men – one is Hector Bowen, a famous “magician” (though what he does is not trickery at all), the other known as the man in the grey suit – begin a challenge that the reader and the participants do not fully understand. The magician uses his daughter Celia as his player, the man in the grey suit finding a young boy in an orphanage named Marco. The two are bound to each other and are told next to nothing about what the challenge entails. It is implied to the reader early on that the winner is also the survivor of the challenge, but that, along with many other things, are not told to Celia and Marco. The venue? The circus. Both Celia and Marco are true illusionists, and their tents and attractions at the circus count as their “moves” against each other. Then, to complicate things further, the two fall in love.

This book really has something for everyone. Beginning in 1873 and ending in 1902, this historical fiction novel takes readers on an enchanted journey. The circus is created by a group of people – some with extraordinary abilities, some with everyday talents. The creators of the circus are unaware they are also creating the venue for the mysterious challenge Celia and Marco are bound to compete in. The circus is open from dusk to dawn only, with patrons wandering from tent to tent, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of this amazing place. While the main focus of “The Night Circus” is Celia and Marco, I really enjoyed reading about the supporting characters as well, and seeing how everyone was connected. Isobel the fortune teller, Herr Friedrick Thiessen the clockmaker, the Burgess sisters, and Tsukiko the contortionist are just a few of my favourite supporting characters, and their contributions to the overall story were fascinating to see play out.

This novel kept my interest from start to finish. Readers are introduced to Hector, the man in the grey suit and their challenge from the beginning, and spend most of the novel trying to understand it. Celia and Marco are equally kept in the dark, allowing readers to learn along with the main characters, which I found a great tactic from Morgenstern. She has a wonderful way of immersing the reader into this world with her main characters. With each chapter, there is a change of focus for the reader – we mainly follow Celia or Marco, but there are also the supporting characters too. We also jump ahead a few years and follow a young Bailey, living on a farm and dreaming of a bigger life , though he isn’t sure what that is yet. Seeing how his story ties in to that of the circus was really interesting!

The novel is set at a slow pace, allowing the reader to fully emerge themselves into the world of the circus and the lives of these characters. Watching Marco and Celia fall in love was beautiful, and watching the Murray twins grow up (born on the opening night of the circus) was so much fun. This book will enchant and bewitch readers looking for a great story. TBPL also has the novel available as a Book Club in a Bag, with 10 copies available together for your book club. This book would be fantastic for a book club to discuss and decipher! Be sure to pick up Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus today!