There are books about magic, and then, there are magical books about magic. The Night Circus, a debut novel by Erin Morgenstern, is one of those novels that has such beauty and mystery and magic of many kinds shifting in and out of the narrative that I had trouble putting it down, and that was a problem because school was starting and my brain was needed elsewhere. Still, I snuck in my reading moments.
I notice a lot of reviews of The Night Circus fluctuate between disappointment and rapture. It seems the disappointment comes from the book jacket overselling the “competition” between two magicians when what this really is is a love story between two students of master magicians whose lives have been put into “play” in mysterious ways. The circus itself — a black-and-white themed, ever-expanding affair that arrives and leaves without notice — is the backdrop for all that unfolds here in this story.
I’m reluctant to give away too much, except that for a new novelist, Morgenstern does a fantastic job of balancing the use of magic in underlying ways (there’s not blasting of wizards from wands or any of that) and building up a real sense of wonder as multiples narrative threads come together. And the ending, where a conversation between two characters about the role that “stories” play in our lives, and how they weave magic for all of us, grabbed me at once and brought me right into why I love novels so much, and how transforming good writing and powerful stories can be. Given what came before in the novel, it was a perfect way to end.
Peace (in the night),