The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Here's the best thing I can say about this fabulous book - I read The Night Circus on the kindle app on my iPad, mostly on the treadmill at the gym and several times I caught myself smiling while reading. Just lost in the story, smiling...while exercising! That doesn't happen very many times, but it happened often with this one.

I believe this is because The Night Circus uses intricate voice, character, setting and ambience elements to fully immerse the reader. Miss Morgenstern expertly mesmerizes us with a lush, richly-described world of magic, romance and intrigue. And I'd become so caught up in it, I'd forget the time and how long I'd been walking and that I was wearing a silly grin on my face. Wonderful writing, intriguing characters and the ultimate setting - a mysterious circus where anything you could possibly dream of happens, and more. It’s a place - and a book - where the line between real and magic is a constant blur.

The principal characters are two young adults, Celia and Marco . Celia is the daughter of one of the world's greatest magicians, so she’s a natural, born to do the impossible. Marco is plucked from an orphanage at a young age, trained and educated by a strange man in a gray suit. Celia's father and the man in the gray suit engage in a "gentleman's wager", pitting the young girl's organic, innate abilities against the skills Marco can learn from years of studying books and undergoing rigorous training. This challenge plays out during their lives in the late 1800s, from around age 6 to 20. And their venue is The Night Circus itself, a travelling show of magic, thrills, chills and all sorts of curiosities, that has its beginnings in England but ultimately travels the world. Taking us fortunate readers along for a magnificent ride.

Oh and there’s just so much more to it....and WOW is it all fantastic! Miss Morgenstern crafts the story by deftly stepping between two main timelines, leading us up to and just past the culminating event. She introduces excellent side characters as well, including the Murray twins who are born at the circus, on opening night, one just before midnight and the other just after. These two - a boy and a girl - inherit a bit of the circus’s magic and thus they become intrinsic to the story. Another favorite character is Bailey, a quiet, hopeful, destined-for-more type of boy from the Massachusetts countryside who becomes absolutely enamored with the circus, and turns out to be more critical to its fate than he could have ever imagined.

This isn’t an action-packed, edge of your seat thrill ride. Yet you can’t put down The Night Circus as it simply drapes you in wonder, awe and enchantment and places a cast of characters before you whom you care about and with whom you'd love to be friends. Imagine the sensory brilliance of a Baz Luhrmann film, such as the recent Great Gatsby or Moulin Rouge, and you’ll get a good idea of this book's captivating beauty. Incidentally, according to IMBD, the film rights to The Night Circus have been picked up and I do hope it is made someday - it would be phenomenal!

Perhaps the best way to show off Miss Morgenstern’s expert wordsmanship in this book is to present some of my most memorable passages:

(spoken by Prospero the Enchanter, Celia's father)
“That’s the beauty of it. Have you seen the contraptions these magicians build to accomplish the most mundane feats? They are a bunch of fish covered in feathers trying to convince the public they can fly, and I am simply a bird in their midst. The audience cannot tell the difference beyond knowing that I am better at it.”

(also said by Prospero, whose real name is Hector Bowen)
“Lefèvre. Chandresh Christophe Lefèvre. They say he’s the illegitimate son of an Indian prince or something like that. Mother was some tramp of a ballerina. I have his card somewhere in this mess. You’ll like him, he’s quite forward- thinking. Wealthy, eccentric. A bit obsessive, somewhat unpredictable, but I suppose that is part and parcel of having an artistic temperament.”

(Marco and Isobel, a young girl who becomes the Tarot Card reader at The Night Circus)
“They are very old,” he says. “Much older than you, I would venture to guess. Might I inquire as to how they came into your possession?”

“I found them in a jewelry box in an antiques shop in Paris, years ago,” Isobel says. “The woman there wouldn’t even sell them to me, she just told me to take them away, get them out of her shop. Devil cards, she called them. Cartes du Diable.”

“People are naïve about such things,” Marco says, a phrase oft repeated by his instructor as both admonishment and warning. “And they would rather write them off as evil than attempt to understand them. An unfortunate truth, but a truth nonetheless.”

(Mr. Barris is an architect who builds things for the circus and is obviously mesmerized by what his creations become, once they enter that magical realm.)
Mr. Barris chuckles in response. “I admit that of the lot of us, I seem the least likely,” he says. “The world is a more interesting place than I had ever imagined when I came to that first Midnight Dinner. Is that because Miss Bowen can animate a solid wooden creature on a carousel or because you could manipulate my memory, or because the circus itself pushed the boundaries of what I dreamed was possible, even before I entertained the thought of actual magic? I cannot say. But I would not trade it for anything.”

Personally, I agree with Mr. Barris. The world of The Night Circus is a more interesting place than I'd ever imagined, and I'm glad Miss Morgenstern created it for us. I highly recommend this one for high schoolers maybe, but mostly for adults. Because there are small bits of violence here and there, though nothing is too intense. And there’s a fair amount of sweet, loving romance with a couple scenes of sensual seduction, but without directly describing any action. However, these parts and the general ambience/complexity of the book make it best for mature readers. I’d encourage you to browse some of the other 4,000+ reviews on Amazon to get more info on the plot and the mysteriously magnificent aura of the circus. Either way, I hope you’ll read this book and if so, I bet you, like Mr. Barris and myself, won't trade the experience for anything.

Happy Reading!