The Night Circus

By Erin Morgenstern

(Doubleday, $26.95, 387 pages)

Who is this author?

To paraphrase the opening (and closing) line of her remarkable debut novel, Erin Morgenstern “has arrived without warning.”

A young multi-media artist and writer, a Smith college graduate who recently relocated from Salem, Mass. (well known for its witchcraft issues) to Boston, she describes herself (and who could do it better?) on her website,

“I am a writer, a painter & a keeper of cats. I’m also the creator of The Phantomwise Tarot…

“I grew up in Marshfield, Massachusetts. Steve Carrell now owns the store where I bought penny candy and blue raspberry Slush Puppies as a child. This both amuses and disturbs me.

“I was reading Stephen King at age 12 and J.K. Rowling at age 21. This likely speaks volumes about my literary development.”

“I write. Fantastical, fairy tale-esque things with magic and mystery and tea.

“My fiction tends to be location-driven. Nocturnal circuses, subterranean libraries, townhouses dressed up as pirate ships. I got tired of living in Alice’s Wonderland and decided to build some of my own.”

That about sums it up, wouldn’t you say?

What is this book about?

It’s about Le Cirque des Reves, the circus of dreams, the dusk-to-dawn night circus of black-and-white tents with blood-red accents, which mysteriously arrives without advertising. It, suddenly, just is. And it offers seductive delights for the senses, such as a garden made of ice and a maze made of clouds.

But lush description of imaginative fantasies is not all this novel has to offer. It is also a love story about two children gifted with amazing psychic powers who are made pawns in a power game between two master magicians. Celia is the young daughter of the night circus’s Hector, known as Prospero the Enchanter, who has a lifelong rivalry with Alexander, mentor to Marco, a boy he found who also has impressive psychic abilities.

The two magicians enter into a competition, using the unwitting children like chess pieces. What the children don’t know is that it is a cruel contest to the death. What the magicians don’t know is that Celia and Marco will fall in love as they grow older and form a partnership of their own. To tell more would reveal too much of the plot.

Why you’ll like it:

Sometimes books are great reads because of what they are about, other times because of how they are written. This book is both: clever of plot and lyrical of description. It’s been compared to the Harry Potter series, but that’s not quite right. And while it may appeal to younger readers, it’s not a Young Adult book. If it has a literary ancestor, it might be Ray Bradbury, who also could evoke spooky, poignant worlds at the drop of a simile. Just as the story is about enchantment, this book has the rare power to enchant its readers, who will be sorry to see it end.

What others are saying:

“Debut author Morgenstern doesn’t miss a beat in this smashing tale of greed, fate, and love set in a turn of the 20th-century circus. …a giant, magical story destined for bestsellerdom,” says Publishers Weekly.

“If this novel is just cotton candy, it’s cotton candy spun from strands of edible silver…With no more lust than a late volume of Harry Potter, Morgenstern manages to conjure up a love story for adults that feels luxuriously romantic. When Celia calls their circus a ‘wonder and comfort and mystery all together,’ she could have been talking about this book,” says Ron Charles in The Washington Post.

Says Newsday: “Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel, The Night Circus, is quietly, enchantingly perfect…reading this novel is like having a marvelous dream, in which you are asleep enough to believe everything that is happening, but awake enough to relish the experience and understand that it is magical.”

When is it available?

“The Night Circus” has appeared without warning at the Hartford Public Library.

Comments are closed.