It quickly becomes the star attraction. The black-and-white themed circus, open only between the hours of sunset and sunrise, is a major source of curiosity and entertainment of the townspeople. Some become so obsessed with it that they follow its travels around the world.
And who can blame them? It is nothing like anything anyone has seen before. Featuring amongst other magical displays are ice gardens, cloud mazes, and a clock that changes its appearance through the night, The mesmerising surrealism is heightened by the lyrical prose. It's hard and even a little sad to think that the place, which Morgenstern describes so vividly, doesn't actually exist in reality.
That is only the surface, though. Hidden from the audience is a mysterious duel between two of the performers, Celia and Marco, set up by their respective instructors who are unwilling to divulge the particulars. All that transgresses is that, at the conclusion of the competition, only one of them will remain. Things only get more complicated when it is revealed how their games have entangled innocent people, and then there's the romance blossoming between Celia and Marco...
The highlight of the The Night Circus is definitely the prose and the mystical atmosphere - Morgenstern is so detailed with her descriptions that it is easy to slip into that world and forget about reality.
Unfortunately, this far outshines the vague plotline. For the plotline is very vague. All we know from the start is the existence of the strange competition between Celia and Marco, and throughout most of the story this remains shrouded in mystery. Even when all is revealed, there are still so many unanswered questions and I I personally missed the feeling of satisfaction when everything falls into place. The story feels more like a sequence of events that occur concurrently with the competition, rather than a chain of cause and effect that drives the story from the beginning to end.
The lack of a strong plotline has also weakened the portrayal of the characters. They have the potential to be interesting, but not much happens for Morgenstern to tap into that potential.
This book is great for those who enjoy lyrical prose and something that is a bit more literary, but may become tedious for others who like a bit more action. Nevertheless, I would recommend the book purely for the excellent descriptions of a most fascinating circus. And the extravagant dinner parties.
The publisher's page for The Night Circus is here.