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If you follow me on Instagram, you know that The Night Circus is my favourite book of all time and that I pretty much never stop talking about it.
I’ve made reels featuring my favourite quotes, I’ve posted dozens of photos featuring the book itself and I’ve shared my many rereads.
Today, I’m bringing that to the blog. So… if you’re still on the fence about reading The Night Circus, buckle in, because I am about to tip you over.
SYNOPSIS: “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.”
Celia is my favourite MC of all time
Let’s start with one of the most important parts of a book (in my opinion): the main character. I’ve seen some reviews saying that Celia is annoying or unrelatable, but I actually found her to be a brilliant main character.
True, she may not be the most relatable character; she is perfectly poised most of the time, completely charming and her mental strength is unbelievable. But I also found her to be vulnerable and completely human (despite being able to practice magic of course) in an extremely refreshing way.
“I am tired of trying to hold things together that cannot be held. Trying to control what cannot be controlled. I am tired of denying myself what I want for fear of breaking things I cannot fix.”– celia- the night circus
The aesthetic is on point
If you read a book for its setting, The Night Circus also has that covered. As you can imagine, a circus set at night is completely dreamy, but the whole book has magic woven throughout it. Erin Morgenstern brings every setting alive with her lilting writing.
It’s a blend of a bunch of genres
The Night Circus is primarily fantasy, but there are also aspects of romance (so beautiful!), a little historical fiction (the book switches between time frames) and a touch of mystery. There’s something for everyone!
“We lead strange lives, chasing our dreams around from place to place.”– the night circus
I love reading about the circus
I’m not entirely sure why I love reading about the circus so much (I don’t even love going that much) but there’s just something about the magic and intrigue that always draws me in. The mixture of physical feats like acrobatics or contortion with fantasy elements like illusions and fortune-telling seem to make for the perfect fantasy setting.
I suppose that’s why another of my favourite books is Caraval, which is also set in and around a magical circus-like island.
It’s revolves around a high-stakes game
The premise of The Night Circus is of two aging magicians, who have played a series of games throughout their life. Each game involves a new player for each magician, who they then train to compete in feats of magic, often over many years.
The Night Circus focuses on one of these particularly high-stakes games (especially since Celia is one of the magician’s daughter)- the setting of course, is the circus, which her and Marco (the sorcerer’s apprentice) jointly keep afloat with their magic.
“People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see.”– the night circus
I adore a soft magic system
If I’m honest, I’m not the best at remembering (or being interested in) really complex magic systems, so a softer magic system is always my favourite in a book.
Celia (our MC) practices ‘illusions’– a looser term for magic. The other characters also have bits and pieces of magic that allow them to perform at the circus, such as the contortionist, whose skill is aided to some extent by magic. For many members of the circus, such as Isobel- the fortune teller- magic is learnt as a skill, rather than a natural ability, a detail I enjoyed a lot. Similarly for Celia and Marco, we see the progression of their magic and the opposing methods their tutors take to teaching it.
Rivals to lovers are my favourite of all time
I don’t think much more needs to be said for this point except from that I adore rivals to lovers and this book has the most beautiful romance. I melted for Marco and Celia.
But if you’re not a fan of romance in fantasy, don’t worry; it’s beautiful but it doesn’t take over the story at all.
“I have tried to let you go and I cannot. I cannot stop thinking of you. I cannot stop dreaming about you.”– The night circus
I root for each character individually
Although the book mainly swaps between following Celia and Marco (her rival), there are also chapters that follow each of the characters individually. The second half of the book focuses partly on Poppet and Widget, 16-year-olds who were born in the circus, and whose lives collide with a spectator’s in a really interesting way.
This switching to follow different characters also means the plot is extremely intricate, but never in a way that is hard to follow. As someone who regularly forgets details, I had no trouble understanding what was going on, and the switches never pulled me out of the story (they only dragged me in deeper).
The writing is so magical and lilting
It’s interesting that one of the major reasons I love this book so much is actually a reason that a lot of people don’t like it. For me, Erin Morgenstern’s writing is lilting, dreamy and completely readable.
I can understand that some people find it flowery, but I never found that to take away from the storyline- in fact, the beautiful metaphors only enhanced it.
The readers are invited in
Unlike pretty much any other book I’ve read, The Night Circus includes readers (to an extent) within the book. Those who regularly visit the circus within the book are known as Reveurs (recognizable by the bright red scarves they don), and some even write articles detailing their experiences.
Throughout the book, the idea of Reveurs grows as a concept, until it feels as if the readers themselves are also Reveurs, experiencing the magic of the circus along with those who visit in the book.
“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”– the night circus
BONUS- I’ve reread it about 10 times and it’s never lost its magic
I first read The Night Circus on holiday in France. My family has a house there and it is well and truly my happy place, so reading what was soon to become my favourite book in my favourite place was completely magical.
Over the years, I’ve reread it multiple times and often come back for certain passages or quotes that stick with me.
I even took it on an expedition to Malawi, Africa (that copy became coated in dust and is missing some pages). It was the only book I had for the month-long trip so you can bet I reread it many times.
Have you read The Night Circus? If not, has this convinced you to pick it up? I would love to chat about what you love about it (or maybe another book that is your all-time favourite). You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me directly on Instagram @wanderingthroughlit.