The circus arrives without warning... this is the first sentence of a story that, in my opinion, was one of the best I read this year. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was a perfect blend of mystery, history, paranormal, and romance. I must admit that I started this book thinking would be a fun, yet predictable YA novel but I was completely mistaken. This book is for adults as well as the younger set. I had not even an inkling about how it would end until the last few chapters of the story. I was enchanted throughout the entire book and quite satisfied with the ending.
The book is told in a clever mixture of flash backs and flash forwards with a smattering of stand alone chapters that capture the essence of the circus tent exhibits. The exhibits are enthralling, unique, exotic, and astounding. Only certain members inside and outside of the circus are privy to the real magic involved in keeping the circus running. That the circus itself was created to be a venue for a game, a challenge between two people, Celia and Marco, who are bound to play the game until there is only one winner. This seems like it isn't such a big deal until they realize they are in love and that the winner lives and the loser dies. Celia is determined to find a way to change the ending so that they can be together and so the circus can continue.
The circus theme is all black and white but the splashes of color in the story are chosen carefully. Celia's dress, the deep red scarves worn by the circus followers, the bright red hair of the twins, Poppet and Widget. These colors seem meant to pop out at you in the story against the black and white background, and they do.
All of the characters in the book are wonderfully mysterious. I loved them, even the crueler characters had a fascination about them. My favorites aside from Celia and Marco were probably Poppet and Widget, the twins. Poppet could see the future and Widget could read the past on people. These two end up playing a much larger role in the story than I originally thought they would. And then there was Bailey, the outsider and yet so important to the story. I couldn't help but think about Barnum and Bailey and wonder if this character's name was chosen purposefully even though there is no evident connection.
I could go on forever about this book and I will probably read it again because it is the type of book where you can probably find something new every time you read it. It was truly a unique and wonderful read.