Celia is the young daughter of a world famous magician and Marco is an orphan, plucked from an orphanage by a mysterious stranger. Unbeknownst to these children, their guardians have enlisted them in a duel to the death in a battle of magical might to be showcased in a traveling night circus. Celia and Marko display their talents by constructing ever more elaborate magic in the black and white tents of the circus. Before they discover the grave consequences of the game they’re playing, they find each other and fall in love, using the circus to demonstrate their devotion to one another. Meanwhile the romantic misfits of the world simultaneously fall in love with their creations forming a devout following of writers, artists, and dreamers.
Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus is a visually stunning debut novel full of fantasy and romance. The imagery evokes the art and films of Tim Burton with an eclectic cast of quirky characters and every visual element of the circus clad in only black, white, and grey hues. Morgenstern takes us to the mystical atmosphere of 19th century Europe while adding her own creative flair in the intricate details while the story as a whole makes a moving statement regarding the power of art on the beholder. I agree with one of her characters who says, “The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones.”
My only complaint about this story regards the character of Celia. Although I admire her independence and intelligence, I’m getting tired of reading about female characters whose stories center on their rebellions and/or devotions to male characters. Celia’s whole life is spent reacting to the men in her life. She takes control and uses her brain to face all challenges and I respect and admire the author for that portrayal of a strong woman. But I would have loved to see one scene where she was acting in total independence and not in reaction to a man.