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Every now a book beckons to me from the shelf in a shop or library. For no apparent reason my hand goes directly to it and I pick it up and take it home. When this happens I don’t usually know of the author and I haven’t even heard of it.
At this stage I haven’t even seen the cover or read the blurb or the review snippets on the front and back.
No idea what genre
I was drawn to buy the Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern in this way, and I’m very glad I did. I’m having a bit of trouble categorising it, because it’s not the sort of book I would usually read.
In fact I don’t know whether there’s even a genre it could fit into. There probably is, but I don’t know what it would be called.
The Night Circus is a sort of alternate-reality book set around the end of the 19th Century. Everything is as it was, except for one thing – the existence of magic. The book revolves around a strange contest between two very powerful magicians.
Each magician selects a young person who has natural talents in magic, and sets them both on a course that brings them into rivalry. However, neither magician sees fit to tell their champions what exactly they’re supposed to be doing. If this seems strange, it is. But bear with me, because it works.
Celia is the daughter of one magician, and Marco is an orphan brought up by the other. They are both trained in their respective magical skills, but they have no idea for what purpose.
The Night Circus
Meanwhile, a magical circus is being created. It’s called the Night Circus, and everything in it is black and grey and white. It arrives mysteriously near cities around the world and is never advertised. It opens at nightfall, and is full of tents within which are the most wonderful exhibits and rides and spectacles.
A set of very talented designers and engineers are engaged to create these extraordinary attractions, and the whole thing is maintained and augmented by subtle magic.
It turns out that the circus is the arena where the magical contest takes place, although the contestants are unaware of the purpose or rules of the contest.
If this doesn’t seem very enticing, I must now mention the writing. This is Erin Morgenstern’s first book, and she has written it with so much imagination and attention to detail, and such beautiful and sensuous language and description that the circus itself sucks the reader in. That was me, turning every page and wishing above all else to be able to visit the Night Circus and experience its wonders and thrills for myself.
I was desperate to find out more about the circus and the fantastic characters who created it, and I was filled with fear for the two young protagonists, who were obviously made for each other but were being set up for some kind of unguessed tragedy by their respective mentors.
There are so many wonderful stories and fascinating characters here, that it’s easy to forget that you don’t usually read this kind of book. Just pick it up and start. You’ll be caught up in it in no time, and you’ll read as fast as you can to find out what happens in the end, while trying to slow yourself down so you can truly appreciate the sights and sounds and smells of the Night Circus itself.
I’m keeping this book, because I know I’ll want to read it again. And again. Look out for it. You’ll feel the same.