The Night Circus

The Night Circus

4.3 2354
by Erin Morgenstern

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In this mesmerizing debut, a competition between two magicians becomes a star-crossed love story.

The circus arrives at night, without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within nocturnal black and white striped tents awaits a unique experience, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds,…  See more details below


In this mesmerizing debut, a competition between two magicians becomes a star-crossed love story.

The circus arrives at night, without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within nocturnal black and white striped tents awaits a unique experience, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stand awestruck as a tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and gaze in wonderment at an illusionist performing impossible feats of magic.

Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves. Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is underway--a contest between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in "a game," in which each must use their powers of illusion to best the other. Unbeknownst to them, this game is a duel to the death, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
…even if you're not ready for clown shoes, you'll enjoy escaping into Erin Morgenstern's enchanting first novel…more than merely re-creating the Greatest Show on Earth, Morgenstern has spun an extravaganza that makes P.T. Barnum look smaller than Tom Thumb…Morgenstern manages to conjure up a love story for adults that feels luxuriously romantic.
—The Washington Post

Every year, in a small Massachusetts town near where I grew up, there's a county fair straight out of Charlotte's Web: pigs, chickens, and cows, cotton candy and fried dough, tractor pulls and sulky races, and some pretty tame rides with brightly colored light bulbs. While it was always fun it was never what you might call magical. Except, maybe, driving by the empty fairground rising out of the monochromatic, flat salt marshes in the middle of December: that was far more evocative—not so much of the fair itself but of a crisp, imaginative whiff of what might be.

This fair from my childhood came rushing back in an almost Proustian way, complete with the smells of fried food and manure, the sun burning the back of my neck, and Keds scuffing in the dust, when I learned that Erin Morgenstern, the author of a debut novel, The Night Circus, grew up in that town. I have no way of knowing if this annual Norman Rockwellish 4-H Club fair—and perhaps even more the fallow wintertime waiting for it-—became transmuted through Morgenstern's imagination into something rich and strange, but it did make me wonder. And I wonder, too, that someone named "Morning Star" should write a book so steeped in midnight. But of course isn't the Darkest Lord of all, Lucifer himself, another instantiation of the morning star?

The Night Circus is a rich, riffing amalgam on the possibilities contained within the idea of "circus." Or, at least, the idea of a circus without clowns, bleached of color and rid of garish effort and pratfalls. The Night Circus is perhaps an anti-circus or its photographic negative: elegant and beautiful, subtle and mysterious, still and silent. The contortionist is graceful rather than grotesque. There are living statues and fire artists. There's an illusionist who can turn books into birds. There's an Ice Garden, a Pool of Tears, a Cloud Maze, and trained kittens. Even the food is delectable. Its guiding aesthetic: "Better to have a single perfect diamond than a sack of flawed stones."

The proper name of the Night Circus is Le Cirque des Rêves, the Circus of Dreams.

It opens at nightfall and closes at dawn. Its color scheme is black-and- white. If it's possible to have a collective Gesamtkunstwerk, this is it. And part of its genius is to let the audience think it can be part of the masterwork. Its fans, votaries even, are not ravers but "rêveurs":

They are enthusiasts, devotees. Addicts. Something about the circus stirs their souls, and they ache for it when it is absent.

They seek each other out, these people of such specific like mind. They tell of how they found the circus, how those first few steps were like magic. Like stepping into a fairy tale under a curtain of stars. They pontificate upon the fluffiness of the popcorn, the sweetness of the chocolate. They spend hours discussing the quality of the light, the heat of the bonfire.
Their contribution to the circus's magic is, partly, the red accents of color they choose to wear as a secret badge of allegiance—but even more to the point is their formalized aesthetic reverence for the dreamy, uncanny experiences of the Cirque des Rêves. "Chasing [their] dreams around from place to place," they form a circus of true believers.

It's a circus of dreams, but who can dream up such magical wonders? Dueling magicians, that's who—in fact, two sets of dueling magicians. But the duel itself tends to recede into the background: Morgenstern's novel is longer on atmosphere—including enticing scents-—than plot and character. She has created, as her Diaghilev-like circus impresario says, "Theatrics sans theater, an immersive entertainment."

The novel begins in 1875 and ends whenever you happen to be reading it. But most of the action takes place between 1884 and 1903. This is the heyday of tales of supernatural love like du Maurier's Peter Ibbetson, eerie evocations of otherworldly inspiration like Trilby's Svengali and The Phantom of the Opera, and the creepy uncertainties of M. R. James's and Henry James's ghost stories. Do the red splashes of the rêveurs call up the green carnations associated with Oscar Wilde? Is the spell behind the magical youth of Dorian Gray replicable?

Morgenstern's fin-de-siècle secrets and romances are suitably garbed in the most luscious descriptions of clothes, but she avoids the claustrophobic experiments in living of Huysmans's heroes. Despite the international exoticism of the circus, her world is far from the morally questionable decadence of the continent. In fact, one of Morgenstern's most enchanted rêveurs is a young boy from Concord, Massachusetts, home to the Transcendentalists, who were one with all of nature (except sex).

In The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern seems to be aiming for the caught breath at the moment of amazement, suspense rather than release. Perhaps suspense is a sufficiently elegant trick, especially when we're talking about dreams rather than nightmares. Take the Night Circus act based on the tarot card of the hanging man, horrifyingly suspended by one foot upside down, falling, spinning, faster and faster toward the ground, until—
He stops at eye level with the crowd. Suspended by the silver rope that now seems endlessly long. Top hat undisturbed on his head, arms calmly by his sides.

As the crowd regains its composure, he lifts a gloved hand and removes his hat.

Bending at the waist, he takes a dramatic, inverted bow.
That's the Night Circus. Out of Morgenstern's darkness come sweet dreams and happy endings.

Alexandra Mullen left a life as an academic in Victorian literature to return to her roots as a general reader. She now writes for The Hudson Review (where she is also an Advisory Editor), The New Criterion, and The Wall Street Journal.

Reviewer: Alexandra Mullen

Publishers Weekly
Debut author Morgenstern doesn't miss a beat in this smashing tale of greed, fate, and love set in a turn of the 20th-century circus. Celia is a five-year-old with untrained psychokinetic powers when she is unceremoniously dumped on her unsuspecting father, Hector Bowen, better known as Le Cirque des Reves' Prospero the Entertainer. Hector immediately hatches a sinister scheme for Celia: pit her against a rival's young magician in an epic battle of magic that will, by design, result in the death of one of the players, though neither Celia nor her adversary, Marco, is informed of the inevitable outcome. What neither Hector nor his rival count on is that Celia and Marco will eventually fall in love. Their mentors—Marco's mentor, Alexander, plucked him from the London streets due to his psychic abilities—attempt to intervene with little success as Celia and Marco barrel toward an unexpected and oddly fitting conclusion. Supporting characters—such as Bailey, a farm boy who befriends a set of twins born into the circus who will drastically influence his future; Isobel, a circus employee and onetime girlfriend of Marco's; and theatrical producer Chandresh Christophe Lefèvre—are perfectly realized and live easily in a giant, magical story destined for bestsellerdom. This is an electric debut on par with Special Topics in Calamity Physics. (Sept.)
People Magazine
[A] dark and extravagantly imagined debut.... The plot follows the separate and then intertwining lives of Celia and Marco, both forced to spend their lives pitting their unusual talents against each other in a cruel competition. But their world is Morgenstern's most vivid creation, a fantastical circus featuring illusionists whose powers transcend mere sleight of hand; like those performers, the author entices her audience to suspend disbelief and rewards its members with captivating pleasure.
From the Publisher
“Playful and intensely imaginative, Erin Morgenstern has created the circus I have always longed for . . . This is a marvelous book."
—Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife

“A world of almost unbearable beauty. This is one of the best books I have ever read.”
—Brunonia Barry, author of The Lace Reader

Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves: Within these nocturnal black-and-white-striped tents lies an utterly unique experience, a feast for the senses. Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination.

But when Celia and Marco innocently tumble head first into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands—their masters intervene with dangerous consequences.

Erin Morgenstern’s singular and spell-casting debut is a mesmerizing love story for the ages.

“A riveting debut . . . pulls you into a world as dark as it is dazzling, fully realized but still something out of a dream. You will not want to leave it.”
—Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger’s Wife

"So magical that there is no escaping its spell. If you choose to read just one novel this year, this is it."—Danielle Trussoni, author of Angelology

"Pure pleasure . . . You can be certain this riveting debut will create a group of rêveurs all its own."—Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

“A gorgeously imagined fable . . . An enchanting read.”
—Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love

Library Journal
This circus is only open at night, and there are some so in love with it that they costume themselves to match its black-and-white theme. Behind tent walls, Celia and Marco create and maintain all the wonder and ambiance. Without their consent or understanding, they were magically bound to each other and to the circus in a competition that must be played out to the death. But they are so evenly matched that the unexpected ignites between them and blossoms into a deep and abiding love. The tale becomes a story of which bond will prevail. Victorian elements mixed with the complete enchantment of the circus and the constant mystery of the competition and its many pawns create a riveting debut for Morgenstern. Jim Dale, voice of the Harry Potter audio series, lends his unmistakable talent to this production, which has received much advance acclaim and a Summit (Twilight) movie deal. Highly recommended for all collections and for fans of fantasy with a flair for history such as Christopher Priest's The Prestige or Caroline Stevermer's A College of Magics. ["Debut novelist Morgenstern has written a 19th-century flight of fancy that is, nevertheless, completely believable. The smells, textures, sounds, and sights are almost palpable," read the starred review of the New York Times best-selling Doubleday hc, LJ 6/15/11.—Ed.]—Lisa Anderson, Metropolitan Community Coll. Lib., Omaha
Kirkus Reviews

Self-assured, entertaining debut novel that blends genres and crosses continents in quest of magic.

The world's not big enough for two wizards, as Tolkien taught us—even if that world is the shiny, modern one of the late 19th century, with its streetcars and electric lights and newfangled horseless carriages. Yet, as first-time novelist Morgenstern imagines it, two wizards there are, if likely possessed of more legerdemain than true conjuring powers, and these two are jealous of their turf. It stands to reason, the laws of the universe working thus, that their children would meet and, rather than continue the feud into a new generation, would instead fall in love. Call itRomeo and Julietfor the Gilded Age, save that Morgenstern has her eye on a different Shakespearean text,The Tempest; says a fellow called Prospero to young magician Celia of the name her mother gave her, "She should have named you Miranda...I suppose she was not clever enough to think of it." Celia is clever, however, a born magician, and eventually a big hit at the Circus of Dreams, which operates, naturally, only at night and has a slightly sinister air about it. But what would you expect of a yarn one of whose chief setting-things-into-action characters is known as "the man in the grey suit"? Morgenstern treads into Harry Potter territory, but though the chief audience for both Rowling and this tale will probably comprise ofteenage girls, there are only superficial genre similarities. True, Celia's magical powers grow, and the ordinary presto-change-o stuff gains potency—and, happily, surrealistic value. Finally, though, all the magic has deadly consequence, and it is then that the tale begins to take on the contours of a dark thriller, all told in a confident voice that is often quite poetic, as when the man in the grey suit tells us, "There's magic in that. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict."

Generous in its vision and fun to read. Likely to be a big book—and, soon, a big movie, with all the franchise trimmings.

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Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt

The circus arrives without warning.

No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen. No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky; countless tents of varying shapes and sizes, with an elaborate wrought-iron fence encasing them in a colorless world. Even what little ground is visible from outside is black or white, painted or powdered, or treated with some other circus trick.

But it is not open for business. Not just yet.

Within hours everyone in town has heard about it. By afternoon the news has spread several towns over. Word of mouth is a more effective method of advertisement than typeset words and exclamation points on paper pamphlets or posters. It is impressive and unusual news, the sudden appearance of a mysterious circus. People marvel at the staggering height of the tallest tents. They stare at the clock that sits just inside the gates that no one can properly describe.

And the black sign painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, the one that reads:
Opens at Nightfall
Closes at Dawn
“What kind of circus is only open at night?” people ask. No one has a proper answer, yet as dusk approaches there is a substantial crowd of spectators gathering outside the gates.

You are amongst them, of course. Your curiosity got the better of you, as curiosity is wont to do. You stand in the fading light, the scarf around your neck pulled up against the chilly evening breeze, waiting to see for yourself exactly what kind of circus only opens once the sun sets.

The ticket booth clearly visible behind the gates is closed and barred. The tents are still, save for when they ripple ever so slightly in the wind. The only movement within the circus is the clock that ticks by the passing minutes, if such a wonder of sculpture can even be called a clock.

The circus looks abandoned and empty. But you think perhaps you can smell caramel wafting through the evening breeze, beneath the crisp scent of the autumn leaves. A subtle sweetness at the edges of the cold.

The sun disappears completely beyond the horizon, and the remaining luminosity shifts from dusk to twilight. The people around you are growing restless from waiting, a sea of shuffling feet, murmuring about abandoning the endeavor in search of someplace warmer to pass the evening. You yourself are debating departing when it happens.

First, there is a popping sound. It is barely audible over the wind and conversation. A soft noise like a kettle about to boil for tea. Then comes the light.

All over the tents, small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. The waiting crowd quiets as it watches this display of illumination. Someone near you gasps. A small child claps his hands with glee at the sight.

When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears.

Stretched across the top of the gates, hidden in curls of iron, more firefly-like lights flicker to life. They pop as they brighten, some accompanied by a shower of glowing white sparks and a bit of smoke. The people nearest to the gates take a few steps back.

At first, it is only a random pattern of lights. But as more of them ignite, it becomes clear that they are aligned in scripted letters. First a C is distinguishable, followed by more letters. A q, oddly, and several e’s. When the final bulb pops alight, and the smoke and sparks dissipate, it is finally legible, this elaborate incandescent sign. Leaning to your left to gain a better view, you can see that it reads:
Le Cirque des Rêves
Some in the crowd smile knowingly, while others frown and look questioningly at their neighbors. A child near you tugs on her mother’s sleeve, begging to know what it says.

“The Circus of Dreams,” comes the reply. The girl smiles delightedly.

Then the iron gates shudder and unlock, seemingly by their own volition. They swing outward, inviting the crowd inside.

Now the circus is open.

Now you may enter.

"The Whole of Le Cirque des Rêves is formed by a series of circles. Perhaps it is a tribute to the origin of the word 'circus,' deriving from the Greek kirkos meaning circle, or ring. There are many such nods to the phenomenon of the circus in a historical sense, though it is hardly a traditional circus. Rather than a single tent with rings enclosed within, this circus contains clusters of tents like pyramids, some large and others quite small. They are set within circular paths, contained within a circular fence. Looping and continuous."

--Friedrick Thiessen, 1892

"A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moon-light, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world."

--Oscar Wilde, 1888

New York, February 1873

The man billed as Prospero the Enchanter receives a fair amount of correspondence via the theater office, but this is the first envelope addressed to him that contains a suicide note, and it is also the first to arrive carefully pinned to the coat of a five-year-old girl.

The lawyer who escorts her to the theater refuses to explain despite the manager’s protestations, abandoning her as quickly as he can with no more than a shrug and the tip of a hat.

The theater manager does not need to read the envelope to know who the girl is for. The bright eyes peering out from under a cloud of unruly brown curls are smaller, wider versions of the magician’s own.

He takes her by the hand, her small fingers hanging limp within his. She refuses to remove her coat despite the warmth of the theater, giving only an adamant shake of her head when he asks her why.

The manager takes the girl to his office, not knowing what else to do with her. She sits quietly on an uncomfortable chair beneath a line of framed posters advertising past productions, surrounded by boxes of tickets and receipts. The manager brings her a cup of tea with an extra lump of sugar, but it remains on the desk, untouched, and grows cold.

The girl does not move, does not fidget in her seat. She stays perfectly still with her hands folded in her lap. Her gaze is fixed downward, focused on her boots that do not quite touch the floor. There is a small scuff on one toe, but the laces are knotted in perfect bows.

The sealed envelope hangs from the second topmost button of her coat, until Prospero arrives.

She hears him before the door opens, his footsteps heavy and echoing in the hall, unlike the measured pace of the manager who has come and gone several times, quiet as a cat.

“There is also a . . . package for you, sir,” the manager says as he opens the door, ushering the magician into the cramped office before slipping off to attend to other theater matters, having no desire to witness what might become of this encounter.

The magician scans the office, a stack of letters in one hand, a black velvet cape lined with shockingly white silk cascading behind him, expecting a paper-wrapped box or crate. Only when the girl looks up at him with his own eyes does he realize what the theater manager was referring to.

Prospero the Enchanter’s immediate reaction upon meeting his daughter is a simple declaration of: “Well, fuck.”

The girl returns her attention to her boots.

The magician closes the door behind him, dropping the stack of letters on the desk next to the teacup as he looks at the girl.

He rips the envelope from her coat, leaving the pin clinging steadfastly to its button.

While the writing on the front bears his stage name and the theater address, the letter inside greets him with his given name, Hector Bowen.

He skims over the contents, any emotional impact desired by the author failing miserably and finally. He pauses at the only fact he deems relevant: that this girl now left in his custody is, obviously, his own daughter and that her name is Celia.

“She should have named you Miranda,” the man called Prospero the Enchanter says to the girl with a chuckle. “I suppose she was not clever enough to think of it.”

The girl looks up at him again. Dark eyes narrow beneath her curls.

The teacup on the desk begins to shake. Ripples disrupt the calm surface as cracks tremble across the glaze, and then it collapses in shards of flowered porcelain. Cold tea pools in the saucer and drips onto the floor, leaving sticky trails along the polished wood.

The magician’s smile vanishes. He glances back at the desk with a frown, and the spilled tea begins seeping back up from the floor. The cracked and broken pieces stand and re-form themselves around the liquid until the cup sits complete once more, soft swirls of steam rising into the air.

The girl stares at the teacup, her eyes wide.

Hector Bowen takes his daughter’s face in his gloved hand, scrutinizing her expression for a moment before releasing her, his fingers leaving long red marks across her cheeks.

“You might be interesting,” he says.

The girl does not reply.

He makes several attempts to rename her in the following weeks, but she refuses to respond to anything but Celia.


Several months later, once he decides she is ready, the magician writes a letter of his own. He includes no address, but it reaches its destination across the ocean nonetheless.

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What People are saying about this

Audrey Niffenegger
"The Night Circus made me happy. Playful and intensely imaginative, Erin Morgenstern has created the circus I have always longed for and she has populated it with dueling love-struck magicians, precocious kittens, hyper-elegant displays of beauty and complicated clocks. This is a marvelous book." --( Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife)
Katherine Dunn
"The Night Circus is a gorgeously imagined fable poised in the high latitudes of Hans Christian Anderson and Oscar Wilde, with a few degrees toward Hesse's "Steppenwolf"for dangerous spice. The tale is masterfully written and invites allegorical interpretations even as its leisurely but persistent suspense gives it compelling charm. An enchanting read.” --(Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love )
Aimee Bender
"Pure pleasure...Erin Morgenstern is a gifted, classic storyteller, a tale-teller, a spinner of the charmed and mesmerizing -- I had many other things I was supposed to be doing, but the book kept drawing me back in and I tore through it. You can be certain this riveting debut will create a group of rêveurs all its own." --(Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake)
Brunonia Barry
"‘Dark as soot and bright as sparks,' The Night Circus still holds me willingly captive in a world of almost unbearable beauty. This is a love story on a grand scale: it creates, it destroys, it ultimately transcends. Take a bow, Erin Morgenstern. This is one of the best books I have ever read.” --(Brunonia Barry, author of The Lace Reader)
Danielle Trussoni
"Every once in awhile you find a novel so magical that there is no escaping its spell. The Night Circus is one of these rarities -- engrossing, beautifully written and utterly enchanting. If you choose to read just one novel this year, this is it." --(Danielle Trussoni, author of Angelology )
Téa Obreht
"A riveting debut. The Night Circus pulls you into a world as dark as it is dazzling, fully-realized but still something out of a dream. You will not want to leave it.” --(Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger's Wife)
From the Publisher

“Magical. Enchanting. Spellbinding. Mesmerizing.” —Associated Press

“Erin Morgenstern has created the circus I have always longed for and she has populated it with dueling love-struck magicians, precocious kittens, hyper-elegant displays of beauty and complicated clocks. This is a marvelous book.” —Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife

“Get ready to be won over. . . . Part love story, part fable, and a knockout debut. . . . So sparklingly alive, you’ll swear the pages are breathing in your hands. . . . The Night Circus defies both genres and expectations.” —The Boston Globe
“A riveting debut. The Night Circus pulls you into a world as dark as it is dazzling, fully-realized but still something out of a dream. You will not want to leave it.” —Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger’s Wife
The Night Circus is the real deal, the kind of novel that will appeal to romantics, history buff, circus aficionados, mystery fans, and lovers of a good story. . . . Steeped in circus lore, filled with evocative scenes of magic and illusion, enriched by characters as varied as the clockmaker who crafted the circus’s iconic timepiece . . . The Night Circus is worth staying up for.” —Bookreporter
“One of the best books I have ever read.”  —Brunonia Barry, author of The Lace Reader
“[A] few pages in . . . and you know you are in the presence of an extraordinary storyteller.” —The Daily Beast
“Echoing the immense pleasure of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Night Circus presents a sprightly version of 19th-century English magic. . . . A love story for adults that feels luxuriously romantic.” —The Washington Post
“Dark and extravagantly imagined.” —People
“Pure pleasure. . . . Erin Morgenstern is a gifted, classic storyteller, a tale-teller, a spinner of the charmed and mesmerizing—I had many other things I was supposed to be doing, but the book kept drawing me back in and I tore through it. You can be certain this riveting debut will create a group of rêveurs all its own.” —Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
“[Morgenstern] employs her supple prose to conjure up a series of wonders: A maze made of clouds, a ship of books floating on a sea of ink, a tent that seems to contain a vast desert.” —Salon
“Reading this novel is like having a marvelous dream, in which you are asleep enough to believe everything that is happening, but awake enough to relish the experience and understand that it is magical.” —Newsday
“Morgenstern’s exquisitely realized world will have [you] wishing to run off and join the circus.” —USA Today
“Morgenstern’s novel feels crafted from the fabric of a dream, and the circus itself never fails to astound. For me, the only real disappointment was that I couldn’t buy a ticket.” —Yvonne Zip, The Christian Science Monitor
“Ladies and Gentlemen! Step right up and prepare to be enchanted. . . . [Will] make you sit right down on the floor of your library or bookstore to see what Morgenstern conjures up next.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
The Night Circus is a gorgeously imagined fable poised in the high latitudes of Hans Christian Anderson and Oscar Wilde, with a few degrees toward Hesse’s Steppenwolf for dangerous spice. The tale is masterfully written and invites allegorical interpretations even as its leisurely but persistent suspense gives it compelling charm. An enchanting read.” —Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love
“A Victorian curio cabinet. . . . In The Night Circus, Morgenstern makes the artificial real, turning atmosphere into art.” —Kansas City Star
“The world of The Night Circus is elaborately designed, fantastically imagined and instantly intoxicating—as if the reader had downed a glass of absinthe and leapt into a hallucination.” —Rachel Syme, NPR
“[A] dazzling foray into the dreamscape of illusion.” —Family Circle
“Every once in awhile you find a novel so magical that there is no escaping its spell. The Night Circus is one of these rarities—engrossing, beautifully written and utterly enchanting. If you choose to read just one novel this year, this is it.” —Danielle Trussoni, author of Angelology

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The Night Circus 4.3 out of 5 based on 5 ratings. 2354 reviews.
mt_employee More than 1 year ago
As I work at Barnes and Noble, I take full advantage of my perks with the books. As a result I read about 5 or so books a week. This summer I read a few books I was really impressed with, some of the best of which are: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculier Children, and Wonderstruck--that being said, The Night Circus blew them all out of the water. Truly, a book with just enough romance (oh how tired I have grown of those predictable books about naughty dukes with images of girls clutching their extravagant gowns as a know), just enough history, just enough magic, and just enough something else to make it more than a lovely, refreshing read- it is important, significant, somehow.
BluHawk More than 1 year ago
This story was so beautifully told, that am certain I will be rereading it for years to come! The author excels at capturing your imagination by creating a world where everything is possible and everyday things can be magical! I have never read another book quite like it; it is uniquely wonderful! The story has elements of romance, mystery, and the paranormal which blend together seamlessly. Because of this, I would recommend it for book clubs of all fiction genres, and also to anyone who is eager for something original!
Alli_N More than 1 year ago
I took my time finishing this book because I didn't want it to end... I enjoyed being absorbed into its magical world. It is a rare book that can pull you in, keep you guessing, and still have a surprising and satisfying conclusion. It is a grief to me that while I can, and will, read this book again, I will never again have the experience of reading it for the first time...
enticed More than 1 year ago
Wonderful read! It's not my normal taste in books so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked this book.
VioletteReads1 More than 1 year ago
I know I am going to reflect the minority here but I did not love the book as much as I wanted to. Maybe it was the repeated hype and build-up, or maybe it was my own excitement, but I really expected a lot out of this book and it did not deliver. First of all, it took me about 100 pages to get into the book, which was longer than anticipated. I kept reading but it took me a while to get into the energy and flow of the back-and-forth dialogue enough to be truly excited about picking it back up. While the writing and description were wonderful, the characters struck me as rather bland. I felt this especially about Marco and Celia, who - as two of the more magical people - could have been focused on more, and given more time in the book. The whole storyline is centered on this competition that both Marco and Celia are unwilling participants in. Instead of pity or empathy, I could offer no emotions for the two protagonists as they did not come off as tangible people. I understand this is supposed to be "magical" but what good is magic if there is no element to tie it to the reader? My favorites, by far, were the secondary characters - Bailey, Herr Thiessen, Poppet and Widget, and Tsukiko. The colorfulness of these characters, added to the overwhelming blandness of the gray mood of the circus as a whole. While we get bits and pieces of their overlapping stories, Morgenstern chooses to do so in a disjointed time-frame that is often confusing. Her narrative jumps forwards and backwards, but there is really very little reason for her to employ this technique, as the general flow of the story is very linear. My absolutely favorite thing about this book was the imaginative scenery and the circus as a whole. The smells, sights, and sounds of it were so beautifully explained, that I could almost smell caramel apple as I sat reading it. The many different tents that were a part of the circus were so creative and wonderful that I found myself longing to be a part of that world. The ice garden, in particular, was so beautifully explained. I loved that this book made me imagine the circus so vividly. While the descriptions help, it left just enough out that I am sure my version of the ice garden is different from that of anyone else. I would recommend this book to other readers who love a fairy-tale like story but are not looking for too much emotional involvement or character substance. I have heard that the rights to the movie version of "The Night Circus" have already been bought and I think that is fantastic! The book is so visual, that I just hope that the studio who will be responsible can do it justice.
slavy1 More than 1 year ago
Erin Morgenstern has created a hauntingly, magical book. To try to describe it only will trivialize it. It's more than a book about a circus or magic or love. Trust me when I say, you won't be disappointed!
BookstoreGirlMH More than 1 year ago
This was a highly imaginative and romantic story, filled with magic and lots of Victorian and steampunk details (all that clockwork!). It reminded me a lot of The Prestige, with a romance embedded in the middle of it. And the little chapters done in 2nd person POV sprinkled throughout the main story makes the reader feel like he/she is attending the actual circus--a really unique touch! All in all, a very good read. Perfect if you like a little magic and fantasy in your fiction (but not all-out sci-fi).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading all of the reviews, and the interesting story line I was ready to absolutely love this book. The idea of magicians competing in a circus to the death was so interesting I couldn't wait to read how everything played out. In reality there was nothing remarkable or enthralling about the competition. I was expecting a really fast paced, suspenseful competition between amazing magicians in the circus, and what I got were two boring characters who were rarely around eachother, competing from different locations . There was nothing interesting about the magic they were doing. It was more like magical interior decorating. The romantic story line was equally ridiculous and boring. They "fell in love" the second or third time they were around eachother (mind you, they had hadn't spoken much to one another during their encounters). There was nothing romantic or believable about their tale of forbidden and, ultimately, devastating "love". Aside from that, I didn't understand why they couldn't be together, or why the competition had to be to the death. The entire thing was incredibly pointless and didn't make sense. I found myself more interested in the minor characters, particularly the psychic twins and the farm boy, who would one day play important roles in the circus. I do have to commend the authors style of writing. Her descriptive words made me feel like I was actually there, and while some have found the chapters hard to follow since they go back and for through the years, and involve numerous characters (probably too many if you ask me), I quite enjoyed that. Too bad the book wasn't as enjoyable. It was ok, but I would recommend not going into it with high expectations.
BookHounds More than 1 year ago
ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT The Night Circus is a mysterious and magical place, full of wonder and acts that create awe in anyone who buys a ticket. Marco and Celia have been preparing for battle since their youth and when both are placed in the circus arena to battle, neither one is exactly certain what this competition is about, nor are they sure about the rules or how a winner is declared. So they both began to create special tents in order to impress each other, not the judges and in essence become love letters. The story is told almost in a circular fashion, with flashbacks and forwards to help bring the reader to a conclusion. There are also a few minor characters that play important roles, yet you won't connect them together until almost the very end. Tsukiko, the tattooed contortionist, is one to keep your eye on since she knows exactly what the circus is and gives cryptic hints towards the true meaning of it's existence. The twins, Poppet and Widget, born when the circus first starts, are wise beyond their years and are inborn with a natural sense of order for the circus. Bailey becomes infatuated after visiting the circus and soon becomes a Reveur, a group who follow the circus, which are a fascinating group on their own. The descriptions are lush and I found myself going back to reread this book just for the beautiful words. I am NOT a fan of overly descriptive novels, but this one was really worked for me. I couldn't quite figure out where the story was going until it was over and it didn't matter, I wanted to join the circus. Oh, forget the review. THIS IS THE BEST BOOK I HAVE READ THIS YEAR. least I can't remember one I liked better so far.
FuzzyCoffeeBooks More than 1 year ago
What I Liked: 1) Let's begin with the cover. The contrasting black and white with the splashes of red, while not only fitting completely with the story, are enticing enough alone to warrant a glance while on the shelf. 2) The prose. The story was written with an elegance that was beautiful and completely befitting the time period. 3) The descriptive writing. The story came alive from the pages because of how great the descriptions were. It was as real to me as if I was living the story myself. 4) The eccentricities of the characters. Miz Morgenstern made certain that none of her characters were mundane or generic. Each and every one of them took on a life of their own, and were so well developed that not one of them fell flat. 5) Celia. I have to take a minute to talk about Celia, the girl that we watched grow up throughout the story. She was the character that everyone is going to feel for, the relate to, and to root for as the story goes on. 6) The romance. Oh. My. Gosh. If there is anything to take away from this story, let it be this: love is magic. The romance that blossoms between Celia and Marco begins long before they even realize it themselves, and as a reader I was so involved in the story, that I was left breathless by their passion. 7) The idea. Authors astound me frequently in their creativity and their ability to come up with a new and intriguing story, and this is no exception. What I didn't like: .............nothing............... Overall thoughts: Wow. That was my initial reaction. When I finished reading and closed The Night Circus, I just had to sit for a few minutes and absorb what I'd just read. Everything about it was truly incredible, from the enchanting love story, the captivating magic, and the spellbinding plot. This is a story that weaves its way into your heart and leaves you mesmerized. One word of caution: make sure you pay close attention to the dates at the beginning of the chapters - they don't always flow chronologically. This has got to be one of the best books I have read all year, and know I will read this story over and over. It's found a permanent home on my bookshelf!
Meli_Green More than 1 year ago
The Night Circus is an elaborate and amazingly well written story, of magic, and romance. The detail in this story is amazing and t some points might seem overwhelming but in the best way to where in imagery is literal jumping from the page as if the story was to play before your eyes. With multiple points of view throughout the story, the reader is constantly on changing perspectives, which makes the story more enthralling. With so many points of view going on throughout the story, the end of the tale magnifies the main conflict in the story as all the pieces finally come together. Aside from the story itself, the characters are well developed and the constant change in locations as the circus travels allows for constant movement in the story. Overall this story is fantastic and I was sorry to see it end.
JGallagher1983 More than 1 year ago
I read this book in two sittings and that's only because I had another engagement - I would have read it straight through if I could. Ms. Morgenstern's debut is a beautifully written literary gem. Her story captivates you right from the start, the vignettes about various aspects of the circus, the quotes, her character development - are amazing. I cannot say enough good things about this book. The twists and interlacing of the plots (and the parallel story lines) are intricately woven to say the least. Her detailed descriptions of the sights/sounds/smells/tastes of the circus made me think I was there. I can picture everything in my mind. I heard a rumor that there is a film in the works - I'll be going to see that. Amazing read, I would recommend this to anyone.
Jenifer40 More than 1 year ago
This was a captivating read. It was total pleasure to read. I found myself spell-bound by The Night Circus. There was romance, but not lusty. There was total enchantment, and not far out to burst your bubble. what a pleasure this was to read.
Icecream18 More than 1 year ago
This is one book a reader should buy a ticket too. The main characters, Celia and Marco, have been girded for battle for a very long time. However, when they are finally put in the arena, they find that they do not know what they are fighting for or what they want the outcome to be. Instead, they choose to construct elaborate tents...they end up impressing each other and are unconcerned about the judges. Their romance builds slowly, but steadily in the novel. The reader will love getting to know the individual characters as well. In a circus, there are many odd characters and the author remains true to this theme. The secondary characters are intriguing and often know much more than they tell...the reader will have fun guessing about the plot of this story and the perfect ending. The main characters complement each other perfectly, it seems perfectly natural that they would fall in love. The events are fast-paced and structured so as not to overwhelm the reader with the awesome that is in this book. The reader won't be confused by the sub-plots or the much larger plot that has many hidden secrets tucked away. The author writes very concisely, leaving just enough details to keep the reader on his/her toes. The ending is both perfect and surprising. This book is perfect for teens/young adults/adults.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't wait to find out what happens and yet I didn't ever want it to end! This book is one tht I will cherish and reread forever it was that good. I don't want to give anything away just if you like a writer with AMAZING creativity and books that you can feel, smell and picture yourself in everything that is going on...Then this is the book for you!! ENJOY!!
lorikbr More than 1 year ago
This book was so highly touted that I couldn't wait to read it. I'm halfway through and I'm giving up. It's all build-up with no substance. I can only suspend my disbelief for so long, then I become irritated. This is honestly the first time I have been so disappointed with a book that was so highly recommended, and I can't help but feel like something is amiss. Who wrote all of these reviews? How has this been so popular when I find it SO vacant? I think it's a marketing circus. If I read my own review, it probably wouldn't have stopped me from buying the book (because I'd see how many were so positive), but I've now looked back at some critical reviews, etc., and they all say the same thing I have said here. At least I'll save money on the movie tickets!
irishais More than 1 year ago
You will not (and should not) want to put this book down-- the spell Morgenstern weaves with her enchanting tale is something that will linger with you long after you've reached the end. A gorgeous, stunning triumph of a novel, The Night Circus is wicked, poetical, lyrical and all-around magical.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just read a review describing the sense of sadness of not getting to read this book for the first time again, and I totally agree. I also prolonged reading the last 100 pages of the book, so I wouldn't finish it too quickly. It is an absolutely beautifully written novel - definitely in my top five. The world Morgenstern creates is practically tangible. While you're absorbed in the pages, you'll be a 100% believer in magic. You will feel like you are part of the Circus, part of each of these characters. After you're done, you'll linger in the wish that you could wander through Le Cirque des Rêves for real. I haven't been this attached to a book in many years. It will be one I re-read annually. Do yourself a favor: read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would not get into this book with great expectations of romance and adventure. I found the characters boring and devoid of any real feelings for each other. I keep reading this book waiting for the real story to start so that i would not feel that i wasted time in my life that i can not get back. I love a great Fairy Tail or Pararomance novel but this one i do not recommend. What I do recommend is The Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful, Magical, and Romantic in surprising ways. Not what I expected. The end felt a little anti-climatic to me based on how much build up there is in the story, but i enjoyed the book a lot regardless. Very enjoyable read and hard to put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book!!!!! It takes you on a fantastic journey of magic and romance.  After reading this book I really wish that this circus existed because it is truly amazing!!  I would highly recommend this book to anyone especially those with a fantastic imagination.  In the right hands this book becomes a wonderful visual feast that adds to the story! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was really disappointed with this book. I had to force myself to finish and had hopes the ending would make up for the rest. It was long winded and jumped around too much. I would not recommend this book to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read so many good reviews on this book and couldnt wait to read it. YES IT WAS MAGICAL AND IMAGINATIVE....but it jumped around and became very boring and I couldnt wait till I finished it! Give me a good thriller or murder mystery to read....this was just not my cup of tea!
SusanThies More than 1 year ago
I must have missed something when I read this book. Our book club was given the book for discussion. We all had difficulties bouncing from character to character. I evidentially missed the "love story" part of the book. Please find another book to read, don't waste your time on this novel! There are so many wonderful books to read, UNBROKEN by Laura Hillendbrand immediately comes to mind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was unable to be transported into this magical place the author claimed the night circus would be. Could not identify myseld with the main characters. Star-crossed lovers? not until the last chapters. Book goes back and forth in time making it difficult for me to follow. Only Bailey really called to me.Took me almost a week to read. Been looking forwad to read this book for months! Sad, Sad Face :( Try and see if you can find something I did not...more than willing to lend so that you do not have to spend the $13.99 I did!