Book Review: The Night Circus

Does magic truly exist in the world? Can the impossible be possible? Writer Erin Morgenstern brought the impossible to light and magic to life for readers everywhere with her debut novel, The Night Circus. Originally published in 2011, Morgenstern’s novel was treated as what is known as a “blockbuster hit” and continues to entrance the minds of readers everywhere even today.

Stories featuring the circus, whether fiction or non-fiction, have a tendency to show the darker parts of the circus: people with abnormal deformities appeared in freak shows for the entertainment of others, when animals were brought into the circus, they were terribly beaten if they disobeyed, and many people performed in the circus because they had nowhere else to go. However, The Night Circus shows more of the good found within the circuses of old than the bad. Morgenstern focuses on how tight-knit the circus families were, how these performers brought to life imaginings people only believed possible in dreams, and how, even if only for a night, people could forget the bad in the world and enjoy a night of fun and laughter at the circus.

The Night Circus focuses mainly on two magicians: Marco and Celia. Before either had even reached adolescence, the two were thrust into a duel by two older, more experienced magicians and the duel would end when only one was left standing. As Marco and Celia grow, without having even met each other, they gathered performers each with unique talents to perform in the circus they created together called Le Cirque des Rêves, which is translated to “The Circus of Dreams.” Little did the two magicians know that, as the circus grew; they grew closer to each other until a love they never expected sprouted between them.

Le Cirque des Rêves was a special circus no one had ever seen before: the circus would appear out of nowhere and would only open as soon as the sun went down. Throughout the night, people were astonished, amazed, and entranced by what they saw. Normally they could not put into words what they experienced because it felt like living in a dream. As soon as the sun came up, the circus would close and people would leave, wondering whether the circus was a dream or if the world they knew to be real was a dream in itself.

The novel is a gripping piece of fiction that would entice any reader curious enough to pick it up. Morgenstern draws readers in with her style of writing. She writes in the third-person, present tense, so the readers have no idea what is going to happen and each chapter begins as if it were a journal entry, the entire story taking place between 1873 and 1902 and traveling from Europe to America. Morgenstern also succeeds in writing in a person not many writers have success writing in: second person. Small two to three page chapters lie scattered throughout the story written in the second person. Each of these small blurbs takes the reader into a different tent in the circus and has the reader experience what the people in the fiction are experiencing. It draws the readers in even more and allows them to experience magic and gives the illusion as if he or she is really there.

With a gripping story, loveable characters, and a setting that, at times, seems more alive than the characters themselves, The Night Circus will hold a special place on bookshelves for years to come. For those who have read the story and for those who have yet to read it, but are curious, a popular line in the story is one many readers and even Morgenstern herself love to quote:

“Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words” (Morgenstern 505).

Mystery and fantasy await with every turn of the page. The Night Circus is a fiction book for the ages and a book that proves magic is alive in the world. One just simply needs to look for it.

Originally published at on January 7, 2015.

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