Are you ready to visit The Night Circus?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern; published by Doubleday, New York, 2011; 387 pages.

From the black and white striped end pages and the hypnotic black and white pages that demarcate each section of the book, you know that this is not going to be a traditional story.  Le Cirque des Rêves, The Circus of Dreams, has magically appeared in a field where there was nothing before.  Over the gate is the name and the hours (from nightfall until dawn) and within are a series of black and white tents.  The scents wafting within are of apples and cinnamon and other warm memories.  All the performers are dressed in shades of blacks and whites and grays.  Their feats are almost too good to be true.  However, their stories are far more interesting than their performances.  The stories of the how the circus was formed, over midnight dinners, are as interesting as the stories of how the performers are selected and how the future of the circus will be secured.  Unbelievably, this wondrous show was created for one purpose: to settle a bet in which only one contestant will survive.

Morgenstern helps set the transcendental nature of the story by helping readers time travel from the late 19th century to the early 20th century in each chapter.  Time and place are set in the chapter titles (as are magical words to help foreshadow the action).  At first I was confused and had to pause to figure out where I was and which character I was following, but soon that was no longer a distraction but rather a part of the storytelling.  By mid-book, the divergent storylines came together and began to make sense and I could predict the conclusion, to a degree.  Perhaps my favorite aspect of the book was the author’s ability to draw me in using all of my senses.  At times I could almost smell the caramel popcorn and hot cider!

Fans of steampunk will enjoy this tale of magical competition.  Although it’s not really steampunk, it has the same Victorian sensibility, supernatural feats, and bizarre mechanical contraptions.  There’s romance, mystery and fantasy working together in The Night Circus.

The Night Circus  is an adult novel that won a 2012 Alex Award.  The Alex Awards recognize adult books that would be of particular interest to teens.  While I think older teens will enjoy the book, I don’t think its complex plot will appeal to younger teens.  I will be talking about it with young adults.

3P     4Q     Grade Level: 11+
Cover Art: The paper circus tent will make sense to readers but will also generate interest to see what the circus is about.

From Reading List: Alex Award Winner (adult books that appeal to young adults) 2012


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    Automobile Makes Name the automobile makes: 1. river wading place 2. ringed planet 3. famous emancipator 4. weep convulsively 5. Star Wars action figure 6. earth wanderer 7. spotted cat 8. heavy metal 9. evade 10. diminutive 11. endlessness 12. bawl + disparaging remark Check for the answer.