The rules of my 25 Book Challenge is pretty simple. Finish 25 books by my 26th birthday. There is a bit of a gray area here on books I’ve already read. I decided rereading a book counts as long as I have not read that book in the last two years, and rereading books cannot make up the majority of the 25 books for this year.
This category is where The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern falls. I read it for the first time in 2012 after I moved to Kentucky, and I fell in love with this fantasy novel. The book centers around a magical competition with higher stakes than either participant realizes. The circus is simply a game board for the main characters, Celia and Marco, to make their moves, but to me, the circus is a character unto itself. It’s only open at night, and despite its literal lack of color, the amazing performers and tents give the circus a vibrant feel. There are acrobats flying through the air without a net; a cloud maze where someone could simply step off a cloud and float to the entrance; an ice garden blooming with white trees and flowers; and the clock that slowly turns itself inside out to reveal intricately designed figurines and scenes.
There are three main story lines. Celia is the daughter of famous illusionist, Prospero, and her power resides in her innate talent. Marco is an orphan adopted by the enigmatic Mr. A.H., and he is taught to use books, symbols and words to create magic that exist in someone’s mind. The first two story lines follow Celia and Marco as they train for the competition and what happens once they start competing. The third story line seems very removed at first. Bailey is a young boy who is enthralled with the circus from the first time he goes, but due to the circus’s lack of a schedule, he spends a lot of time yearning for the circus to come back. The three story lines eventually weave together in a perfect ending.
Overall, Morgenstern did an amazing job of painting a world that is both believable and magical all at once. The vignettes describing different tents are perfect for the reader to experience the circus himself, not through another character’s eyes. Despite only being in a handful of scenes together, the connection between Marco and Celia jumps off the page. Even though there are many characters to keep up with, Morgenstern introduces them slowly, and the side characters are intriguing enough to capture your imagination like the clockmaker and original rêveur Herr Friedrick Thiessen and circus owner/producer Chandresh who has a penchant for elaborate midnight dinners. On a second read, this book is still one of my favorites that I have read in recent years and would recommend it to anyone.
Next up: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell