I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.
I am a fan of magical realism and whimsy. I'll take it in any form I can find it. When I started hearing the buzz about Erin Morgenstern's NIGHT CIRCUS, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. While the book may not fall directly into the magical realist category, it IS filled with lots of magic and beauty.
A mystery circus rolls into town that is only open at night. Everything about the circus from its costumes to its tents are black and white. Instead of entering one large tent and viewing a standard three-ring show, visitors are encouraged to wander through many small tents in order to explore the many wonders the circus has to offer. The visitors, however, are not aware of the true purpose of this wonderful attraction. The circus is actually a traveling venue for a magical competition between two powerful magicians who were designated opponents when they were children. Celia is the daughter of a well-known magician and Marco is an orphan taken in by a mysterious man in grey. Both children have been trained since childhood for the express purpose of engaging in this mysterious and fierce competition. As the game continues over the years, Celia and Marco fall in love and their forbidden relationship has dangerous consequences both for themselves and the Circus.
To me, the love story and competition were the least interesting parts of the book. I was most intrigued by the marvelous details about the Circus itself. It seemed like such a wonderful place and, as each tent is revealed, I became more and more drawn into its magic. Morgenstern is marvelously creative in crafting this circus and its many wonders. It is filled with such beauty and wonder and the people in and around it are as intriguing as its offerings. When the story returned to Celia and Marco, I often became bored and impatient. While their story is important in terms of moving the action along, I was far more interested in the day-to-day operations of the Circus. I was excited to see what new wonders each chapter would reveal.
I didn't really believe in Marco and Celia's love and I found the competition a bit confusing. I wish Morgenstern had gone into greater detail about the reasons behind the competition and the mysterious men behind it. However, the details about the circus redeemed the whole story for me.
BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. A wonderful and whimsical tale about magic and love that is most satisfying in its little details.