By Erin Morgenstern
Published by Harvill Secker
The circus arrives out of nowhere. There are no posters announcing its arrival or how long it will stay. One day a field is empty, the next day the circus is there. With its black and white tents, no one can miss its presence or its air of mystery. But the odd thing is that it's open only at night.
Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus is a wonderful crossover novel that fits perfectly in that grey area between youth and adult fiction. It can be enjoyed by confident older teens as well as their parents. Readers who grew up with Harry Potter will find much to enjoy in this mysterious and entertaining debut novel that blends magic with mystery and romance.
The world, as any reader of magical tales will know, is not big enough for two wizards who are both convinced they are the supreme magical being. Two wizards in the same arena means confrontation, with a definite winner and loser. Prospero the Entertainer is in one corner of the ring and the "mysterious man in the grey suit" is in the other. Time is of no consequence to the two men - all they care about is ultimate supremacy.
But they are too proud to actually engage in a battle of magic themselves. They come up with a clever plan, where the two old enemies are puppet masters in the shadows.
Prospero has a young daughter called Celia. She has untrained magical powers, but does not understand the full power of her natural abilities. She is thus perfect to play the part of Prospero's pawn. Prospero's opponent finds Marco, a young boy with psychic powers, on the streets of Victorian London, and takes him in as his protege. Let the battle of magic begin!
As they grow up, neither Marco nor Celia find out that their mentors have involved them in an epic war that will end in death for one of them. Their battlefield is the Night Circus, a place for the unexpected as well as the magical. Perhaps predictably, Marco and Celia soon fall in love, not realising that they are deadly rivals.
The Night Circus is packed with atmosphere, character and mystery. One moment it is a romance, the next it is a dark thriller. Along with a supporting cast of secondary characters, Marco and Celia are interesting creations whom the reader really connects with.
This may be Morgenstern's first novel, but she has already developed a knack of keeping her readers involved. Her creation of the shadowy Night Circus is one of the most successful examples of scene-building to appear in recent fiction.
The Night Circus is already a best-seller, and the movie rights have already been snapped up. But don't wait for the film version to hit the screen. Pay your entrance fee for the attraction now and enter a world that is both dark and dazzling. The Night Circus is a unique place - and you might just not want to leave once you have passed through the gates.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com