This book was such a pleasant surprise! I procrastinated from my other tasks to finish it, because I really couldn’t wait to find out how the story would end. And having read it, I think it’s safe to say it’s the best book I’ve read so far this year.
Two illusionists decide to hold a contest through their chosen contestants. Those contestants are still children when they are chosen, and they’re bound to each other with a magic ring. The competitors themselves are kept in the dark about who their opponent is, what the challenge consists of and what they have to do to win – all they know is they have to ‘show off’ their magical skills. To do that, the Night Circus is invented. Each of them comes up with some tents full of wonder and mystery, and the circus travels the world. None of the other people working at the circus have a clou of what’s going on. Overall, this is a mysterious start of the book. It takes a while for the plot to become clear, and even when it does, not all is revealed until the end.
The main character is probably Celia Bowen, one of the contestants and an illusionist. She travels with the circus and performs in her own tent. Her character is especially relatable, as the book follows her from an early age. Her opponent operates more on the background of the circus, and so it takes a while for Celia to find out who he is. The interaction between them was very interesting, and also quite heart-breaking.
Some books would have let it at that, but Morgenstern added another storyline: that of the twins Poppy and Widget (nicknames), who are born in the circus, and befriend a boy who visits the circus, Bailey. First, it’s unclear why Bailey is suddenly part of the story, but in the end, it all makes a lot of sense.
My expectations were already quite high when I picked up this book, but I guess I was expecting something more in the ya fantasy genre. The writing was a lot more literary than that though! The writing highly added to the plot, as it breathed the magic the plot consisted of. That magic was subtle and elegant, and so was the writing. The magic in this book was some sort of a mixture of illusion and manipulation, and the writing accomplished the same, considering what Morgenstern chose to share and to keep to herself. She did a great job of visualizing the Night Circus. Throughout the book, enough information was revealed to keep you interested, but the flashbacks and such also challenge you to piece the puzzle together yourself. Morgenstern certainly didn’t explain more than she needed to – this was ‘show, don’t tell’ done right! Toward the end of the book, the main character, Celia, explains the circus in a way that also explains the book itself: “Something that is wonder and comfort and mystery all together…” (p. 401)
I especially loved the additions in second POV, because they enhanced the magical vibe of the book even more, but also made the Night Circus even more imaginable. Those inserts were set in contemporary times, while the plot itself was set in the late 19th and early 20th century. This really made you feel like you were actually visiting the circus yourself. I think this is the first time I’ve ever read a book that made second POV work this well.
This book had everything: an intricate plot, believable and loveable main characters, amazing writing, and enough to keep room for you to imagine how it would continue. If you like a magical vibe, but also