Author: Erin Morgenstern, 2011.
Genre: Historical Fantasy. Magical Realism. Tarot. Circus.
Other Details: Hardback. 387 pages.
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called 'Le Cirque des Rêves', and it is only open at night. - from the author's website.
The Night Circus is the venue for a dual between two young magicians - Celia, the daughter of an enchanter, and Marco, a sorcerer's apprentice, both trained from childhood for this purpose alone. Unbeknownst to Celia and Marco, this decades-long game of imagination and will is one in which only one will be left standing.
Erin Morgenstern is an artist and quite obviously a natural storyteller. She invites her readers into an exploration of the circus and through it of what might be possible. The narrative jumps back & forth in time, switches points of view, with a a sprinkling of vignettes: all of which add to its dream-like atmosphere. The Tarot also plays a significant role in the story and Erin had designed a deck of her own, The Phantomwise Tarot.
Noting reviews on various sites, it seems to be a novel that polarizes readers. Certainly, there is a restraint and coolness to her writing style, which is somewhat at odds with the current trend in fantasy for first person narration and emotional outpourings. Morgenstern also does not seek to answer all the questions raised by her story, leaving a sense of mystery at its heart. This novel reminded me a little of the style of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, another novel I fell in love with and one that people again seem to love or hate in equal measure.
The UK hardback edition book was beautifully produced with a real attention to details in its binding and use of colour. I also did admire the cover art for the US edition with the circus being cradled in an elegant white-gloved hand.
Erin Morgenstern's website - lots to explore!