I think I will always remember that particular evening in Barnes & Noble.
I was desperate for a new read, but not just any new read. I wanted one that would keep me up at night and drag me down a deep, curious rabbit hole, captivating me with the lives of its characters in an intimate, meaningful way that I would never be able to shake. I wanted everything: a grand adventure, a whisper of magic, a splash of romance, and above all, a good story (a tall order, I know). When I picked up The Night Circus, I was cautiously hopeful that it would tick all the boxes.
I was not disappointed.
Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel is a whimsical delight of autumn, and by that I mean all things wonderful. There are caramel apples and cider, candlelit rooms, midnight dinners, and red scarves fluttering a splash of color against the circus’ monochromatic palette. Its sensory descriptions take you into the heart of Le Cirque des Rêves (“The Circus of Dreams”) itself as a series of vignettes unfold, describing in present-tense what you, the rêveur (“dreamer”), experience on your personal visit to the circus (which is only open from sunset to sunrise. How fantastic is that?).
The circus itself, for all its wondrous amusements, is actually an arena for a deadly and fierce rivalry between two magicians who have decided to train two children to compete on their behalf. These incredibly gifted children, Celia and Marco, grow up with very different backgrounds, but are trained for the same, unique form of competition. When Le Cirque des Rêves is born, these two apprentices (having reached adulthood) begin to understand the magnitude and purpose for which they’ve trained. Each new exhibit is not only to fascinate the public, but also to raise the stakes as a personal challenge from one player to the other. It is a far more dangerous, complicated, and difficult game than they had imagined.
Erin Morgenstern is a writer to watch (and I have been for years since this book’s release. If you need something to help tide you over until her next book is published, these Flax-Golden Tales are a treat). Her unique voice draws you into a world that encompasses a diverse array of exotic characters, places, and even time periods.
I recommended this book (which is, not surprisingly, my favorite) to one of my friends a few summers ago when she needed a new read, and we still talk about how good it is. It’s one of my go-to novels when I need something to read in my collection that will still fascinate, thrill, and soothe me. It enlivens my imagination, and it inspires me as a writer to try things that are different and new.
You’ll probably see it on the big screen in the next few years, but don’t wait. Find a copy of this book and immerse yourself. Allow yourself to experience The Night Circus firsthand.
See you at the circus gates, rêveur.