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The Night Circus

Cover of The Night Circus

The Night Circus

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.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway--a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love--a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

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.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway--a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love--a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

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    ANTICIPATION

    The circus arrives without warning.

    No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

    The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen. No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky; countless tents of varying shapes and sizes, with an elaborate wrought-iron fence encasing them in a colorless world. Even what little ground is visible from outside is black or white, painted or powdered, or treated with some other circus trick.

    But it is not open for business. Not just yet.

    Within hours everyone in town has heard about it. By afternoon the news has spread several towns over. Word of mouth is a more effective method of advertisement than typeset words and exclamation points on paper pamphlets or posters. It is impressive and unusual news, the sudden appearance of a mysterious circus. People marvel at the staggering height of the tallest tents. They stare at the clock that sits just inside the gates that no one can properly describe.

    And the black sign painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, the one that reads:

    Opens at Nightfall
    Closes at Dawn

    "What kind of circus is only open at night?" people ask. No one has a proper answer, yet as dusk approaches there is a substantial crowd of spectators gathering outside the gates.

    You are amongst them, of course. Your curiosity got the better of you, as curiosity is wont to do. You stand in the fading light, the scarf around your neck pulled up against the chilly evening breeze, waiting to see for yourself exactly what kind of circus only opens once the sun sets.

    The ticket booth clearly visible behind the gates is closed and barred. The tents are still, save for when they ripple ever so slightly in the wind. The only movement within the circus is the clock that ticks by the passing minutes, if such a wonder of sculpture can even be called a clock.

    The circus looks abandoned and empty. But you think perhaps you can smell caramel wafting through the evening breeze, beneath the crisp scent of the autumn leaves. A subtle sweetness at the edges of the cold.

    The sun disappears completely beyond the horizon, and the remaining luminosity shifts from dusk to twilight. The people around you are growing restless from waiting, a sea of shuffling feet, murmuring about abandoning the endeavor in search of someplace warmer to pass the evening. You yourself are debating departing when it happens.

    First, there is a popping sound. It is barely audible over the wind and conversation. A soft noise like a kettle about to boil for tea. Then comes the light.

    All over the tents, small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. The waiting crowd quiets as it watches this display of illumination. Someone near you gasps. A small child claps his hands with glee at the sight.

    When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears.

    Stretched across the top of the gates, hidden in curls of iron, more firefly-like lights flicker to life. They pop as they brighten, some accompanied by a shower of glowing white sparks and a bit of smoke. The people nearest to the gates take a few steps back.

    At first, it is only a random pattern of lights. But as more of them ignite, it becomes clear that they are aligned in scripted letters. First a C is...

Reviews-
  • Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife "The Night Circus made me happy. Playful and intensely imaginative, Erin Morgenstern has created the circus I have always longed for and she has populated it with dueling love-struck magicians, precocious kittens, hyper-elegant displays of beauty and complicated clocks. This is a marvelous book."
  • Ron Charles, The Washington Post "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."
  • The Boston Globe "A Romeo and Juliet tale drenched in magic realism, The Night Circus defies both genres and expectations. In short, it's a showstopper."
  • 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."
  • People magazine "[A] dark and extravagantly imagined debut...The plot follows the separate and then intertwining lives of Celia and Marco, both forced to spend their lives pitting their unusual talents against each other in a cruel competition. But their world is Morgenstern's most vivid creation, a fantastical circus featuring illusionists whose powers transcend mere sleight of hand; like those performers, the author entices her audience to suspend disbelief and rewards its members with captivating pleasure."
  • USA Today "Morgenstern's exquisitely realized world will have the reader wishing to run off and join this circus."
  • Elle magazine "Morgenstern's Circus is the stuff that dreams are made of, and nothing short of a wild ride."
  • Associated Press "Magical. Enchanting. Spellbinding. Mesmerizing."
  • The Daily Beast "[A] few pages into this story of a mysterious circus and its two stars, a young man and a woman who are both capable of real magic, and you know you are in the presence of an extraordinary storyteller."
  • The Christian Science Monitor "Morgenstern's novel feels crafted from the fabric of a dream, and the circus itself never fails to astound. For me, the only real disappointment was that I couldn't buy a ticket."
  • Rachel Syme for NPR.org
    "[T]he world of The Night Circus is elaborately designed, fantastically imagined and instantly intoxicating -- as if the reader had downed a glass of absinthe and leapt into a hallucination."
  • Family Circle
    "Two star-crossed magicians, Celia and Marco, duel for supremacy against the backdrop of a big top unlike any other. Morgenstern conjures up a world of dark enchantment and romance in this dazzling foray into the dreamscape of illusion."
  • The Economist "A beguiling, gripping read...Ms. Morgenstern has crafted a thrilling and transporting tale. In so doing she makes it clear that of all the shapes magic may take, storytelling is often the most powerful of them all."
  • Publishers Weekly, starred review "Debut author Morgenstern doesn't miss a beat in this smashing tale of greed, fate, and love...a giant, magical story destined for bestsellerdom. This is an electric debut on par with Special Topics in Calamity Physics."
  • Kirkus Reviews, starred review
    "Self-assured, entertaining debut that blends genres and crosses continents in quest of magic... Generous in its vision and fun to read. Likely to be a big book--and, soon, a big movie, with all the franchise trimmings."
  • Library Journa "To enter the black-and-white-striped tents of Le Cirque des Rêves is to enter a world where objects really do turn into birds and people really do disappear...Debut novelist Morgenstern has written a 19th-century flight of fancy that is, nevertheless, completely believable. The smells, textures, sounds, and sights are almost palpable. A literary Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, this read is completely magical."
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