If your holiday presents didn’t include enough good books or if you’re looking for something different to read, check out The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I’m usually not enamored with this kind of book. I like my fiction totally realistic, but this author caught my attention from the beginning and never let me go. Maybe it’s because the magic in this book doesn’t happen as an organic part of the plot with no explanation. The characters in the book call it magic, and some of them work as magicians. The irony is that instead of working to make their illusions believable, they’re working to make their magic look not so real.
And yet it must still be remarkable magic. Two of the characters are thrust as children into a contest to see who is the better magician. Celia’s father, Hector, who’s billed as Prospero the Enchanter, pits her against Marco, the ward of the man in the gray suit, who has long been Hector’s competitor in games testing the skills of their students. To make the contest more interesting this time, the two masters agree that the playing field will be a circus, but not an ordinary circus. This circus will have several small tents, each with a particular exhibition—fortune teller, acrobat, conjurer, contortionists, and the like. There will be no elephants or clowns, only acts that are more refined than that. And the circus will be open only at night.
The prize for winning the contest will be the losing player. “You would wager your own child?” the man in the gray suit asks Hector. “She won’t lose,” Hector says.
And so the contest begins, both players knowing that they are competing, but not who their opponent is.
Involved by their masters in different roles in the circus, Celia and Marcus sweep the entourage along from city to city around the world, creating ever greater feats of magic, including keeping everyone involved from aging except two red-headed twins born the same year the circus was created. And then, as their paths intersect more frequently, they realize they are competing against each other. Since they don’t know that only one of them can survive the competition, they decide to turn it instead into a collaboration. Working together, they fall in love. But their relationship does not dissolve the pact made by their mentors years before. Fueled by magic and desire, events swirl rapidly until the conclusion, like the circus, arrives without warning.
The entire novel is an intoxicating journey, filled with marvelous images and enchanting characters. Open your mind to the possibilities and it’s a fascinating trip.