Book Review: The Night Circus

. 2 min read

"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."
— Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

Okay, you guys, so, I’ve been sharing with you on Instagram for quite a bit now how obsessed I am with Erin Morgenstern’s book The Night Circus, but finally it’s time to tell you a bit about why.

So, here’s the thing, you guys know, as the maker of the world of The Play House, I’m fascinated by mysticism, magic, and mythology—the 3 Ms that matter, if you ask me. And, importantly, I’m incredibly intrigued by worlds in which all of the above is presented very subtly, to the point where you’re like, “Okay, wait, is this real? Is this imagined? What’s going on?” In literature, we call this genre either Low Fantasy, or Magical Realism. (In film, they sometimes call it Mystery, other times Fantasy or Sci-Fi, as per the world. Sometimes, as in the case of The Prestige—a movie I adore for this very element of intrigue/magic its world and plot are built on—they call it “Mystery/Sci-Fi.”)

In any case, my attraction to The Night Circus lies in this way Morgenstern presents magic to her readers—through a fairly thick veil of mystery. In essence, we are kept in the dark with regards to how magic works (How did he create that illusion? Did only the two of them see it or did the passers-by see it too?), with regards to magic's origins (Why do people have different gifts? Does everyone possess magic? Is it learned or inherited? Is it a good thing or bad?), with regards to how the circus works and its true purpose (at least, until the end)… And rather than be frustrating, Morgenstern makes it nothing but incredibly alluring. 'Spellbound' may be a good word for the state she puts you in as she pulls you through the story, pages collapsing one on the other without notice, as if by the force of an invisible magnet, or a wizard’s wand.

I’ve met a lot of people lately who, when I talk to them about my work, tell me that they “used to love to read fiction” but they haven’t found a book in years, if not decades, that pulls them in in the same way books they read in their childhood, or adolescence, did. That’s largely why I’m writing this post (and why I wrote the last on Chocolat). Because the truth is, there are many books out there that have the beautifully spun diction, the intricately orchestrated plot, and the deeply woven characters to draw you in, bring you to that place of wonder you inhabited as a kid, when you stuck your nose into books like The Hobbit, or Harry Potter, or Alice in Wonderland, etc. And this story? This may be one of the very best. I can’t recommend it enough.

PS. Morgenstern finally (!!) has a second book coming out called The Starless Sea. You can get it in November, or pre-order it here.