Once upon a time, two rival mystics waged a secret contest between each other. Each mentor chose their own student to represent them and their method of the craft. Hector chooses his own daughter Celia. While Alexander chooses an orphan who prefers the name Marco. After years of training and lessons, the two students meet in the whimsical Night Circus.
Celia and Marco begin their competition with a driving need to just get the game done. But as they grow closer, it becomes apparent that they are deeply connected in love and respect. There is a problem in this though, since the competition can only have one outcome... death. With this realization, the couple has to find a way to end the game without losing all they have come to live for.
Along with her love struck magicians, Ms. Morgenstern creates a family within the circus that the reader can truly feel connected too. Readers also meet Tsukiko, the Burgess sisters, the Murray twins, and many many others who fascinate and draw them into this world of light and dark.
If not enticed by the forbidden love aspect of the story, the reader is given a vivid tour of the legendary circus. As the love develops, so too does the circus as it becomes a loving collaboration between the two opponents. In short, the circus becomes its own character. Enigmatic attractions suck the reader deeper into the world of the circus. Though lightly powdered with a spiritualism/fun- house quality, the images Ms. Morgenstern builds are so well crafted the reader has to read the descriptions over and over again to get the full effect.
Between changing perspective over the course of the novel, the reader is introduced to both “opponents” equally. This intelligently written story gives the reader characters they can care about. The occult themes are light. These characters do what is expected of them, not because they want to have power or achieve some dark agenda. These are two kids just trying to please their mentors. Those mentors just happen to be playing with shades of gray. In the process, Ms. Morgenstern creates an intricate puzzle the reader slowly unravels as the novel marches forward.
Fans of epic love stories will enjoy this novel just as much as fans of the high fantasy genre. Whether drawn in by the competition or the mystery of the setting, a well written, and well developed concept makes this story a page turner. Recommended.