Marco and Celia are magicians, for lack of a better term. They are dueling in order to discover who is superior, though they are less like warriors and more like pawns. Their “battlefield” is the Night Circus, a place they fill with as many wonders as they can create, but trying to keep up with the circus and one another, as well as some unexpected emotions that crop up, starts to be more than they can handle.
This is a beautiful book. Really beautiful. In that way that, if it happens for you like it did for me, you’ll find yourself swept up in descriptions of magic acts and tents that hold amazing sights and food that sounds absolutely delicious and I want a dress that changes colors! I think the reason this book is so popular, and I’ve seen it for myself now, is it takes the Rule of Cool up to the nth power. If it’s beautiful or whimsical or fantastic or magical, it’s here. Erin Morgenstern is very Gaiman-esque that way, and that’s a big compliment I’m giving her.
This book is all about atmosphere. In some ways, to the detriment of the plot or even the characters. That’s how it lost that last star that would’ve made it perfect for me. There were characters, albeit side stories, in this book that lost steam and were never returned to. There were people I wanted to catch up with before the book ended, and we never did. There was a lack of retribution for evil deeds done. There were characters we were meant to clearly root for who I felt were being selfish. There were all sorts of things that left the conclusion feeling flighty and too light for me.
There’s a sense this book could’ve been more and didn’t get there. Ultimately, it was a light read, and that’s not a sin. I can recommend it more so than other books I’ve loved based on its being light and fun and still managing to be captivating even with a thin plot. It’s also a character driven narrative that, if you’re into that kind of thing like I am, can make you forgive a lot.
My best advice is don’t go into this book expecting a dense plot. Or even a lot of explanations, because it doesn’t do that either. Just be enchanted. It will do that if you let it. Treat it like the book wants you to: like you’re going to a mysterious circus and absorbing its beauty.