The circus arrives without warning.
The Night Circus opens with a simple statement that lets you know right away that this isn't your typical circus story (if there is such a thing). A circus that shows up, and sets up, without anyone seeing it and only opens at night sets the stage for a story that is both whimsical and twisted. As you step away from the circus you meet the main characters, only they aren't merely characters, they are players in a game only the creators know the rules to.
The characters in The Night Circus were complex and interesting. Even the side characters had very individual personalities and plenty of eccentricities. The characters that remained mysterious through the book held your attention with their unique qualities as well. Not a single one was stereotypical, something I can't stand. The two main characters, Celia and Marco, were very well developed. They don't meet until halfway through the book, and they spend little time together, but the chemistry between them is expressed perfectly through each character's thoughts and the creations they make for each other. I loved that they create circus tents for each other. It was the most creative idea for love letters I've ever seen.
An interesting aspect of the book was the multiple storylines. Two of the storylines are separated in time, merging at the end of the book beautifully. Celia and Marco begin their stories as children and continue through the game, through romance, and through realization of just how deadly the game they are playing really is. Poppet and Bailey meet some years in the future, and you spend the book wondering how the two storylines will come together and what the results of that meeting will be. From the first moment you meet Bailey and Poppet the question of how their interactions will affect Celia and Marco nestles in the back of your mind and refuses to go away. It pulls you through the story just as much as trying to figure out how Celia and Marco will ever survive the game. The third storyline is yours. A clever idea, Morgenstern guides you personally through the circus, making the experience even more vivid.
Bordering on full-out fantasy, Morgenstern's descriptions of the circus are wonderful. Ice gardens, clouds tents, bottled up stories and much more are painted in such detail that it is impossible not to get sucked into the circus. Even the food is described to point that you find yourself wishing you had a bag of chocolate mice as well. Emotion is just as powerful throughout this book. Frustration at the game and its creators, confusion, desire, and anguish are woven through every aspect of the book. A love story where the lovers are very rarely together and can only communicate through what they can create within the circus is a beautiful idea.
The only aspect of the story I can complain about is that I thought the climax could have been more detailed. Everything leading up to the climax had me turning the pages as fast as I could, but once I got there it happened fast and missing the vivid detail that had persisted through the rest of the book. Even having said that, the resolution was still very satisfying and left no annoying unanswered questions. I simply missed the enveloping description I had enjoyed through the rest of the book.
Overall, I loved the book. 5 stars for sure. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a captivating romance, slightly twisted mystery, or being transported to a world outside of the every day. Happy reading everyone!