Celia and Marco are both magicians, trained by magicians who differ philosophically in what exactly that training should look like. As a result, they create a competition for their pupils. The venue is the circus. Moves are made by each side, and as they are, Marco and Celia begin to fall in love. This leads to all sorts of complications in a competition where only one side should be left standing at the end. As you would expect from any good writer, the solution to this problem is ingenious, both completely unexpected and completely inevitable.
I enjoy books where magic is woven into our normal world. The Night Circus reminded me of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke for this reason. Magic is there; you just need to know how to use it. It doesn’t require a wand or fancy spells. The world can be manipulated by your mind, real magic disguised as illusion. The twist of competing magicians who then fall in love simply provides more opportunities for the magic to shine through.
This was one of those books that I wanted to devour and savor all at the same time. I viewed the dwindling pages with dismay, wanting to stay in the world that Morgenstern had created. The characters and the story were wonderful, but it was honestly the atmosphere of this book that grabbed my imagination on the first page and still hasn’t let it go. It’s an impressive debut novel, and I’m already looking forward to what else may come from this author.