I had the extraordinary pleasure of reading an advance reader's copy of this book over the weekend. This is one of those books that once you pick up and start reading, you will be unable, completely unable, to put down. Erin Morgenstern does a fantastic job of making you feel like you are part of the story. Her descriptions of characters, colors, tastes and smells is so vivid you actually feel like you are living out the characters' lives.
The author tells us the story of Celia and Marco, two unsuspecting victims of a challenge that had been chosen for them since childhood. We watch them grow up, ruthlessly training for this competition where they will be pinned one against the other no matter the consequences. In this challenge/competition, they must outdo each other by way of showing who can do the most amazing magic. What at first seems like a competition of skill becomes a challenge of morals, values, and love. Unbeknownst to their teachers, Celia and Marco fall deeply in love with each other and must find a way to outsmart the rules, but in the meantime they find ways of writing love letters to each other in the form of new tents that magically appear throughout the circus, each with an meaningful gift for each.
Parallel to Celia and Marco's story, we get to know Bailey, a young man who as a child was dared by his sister to break into the Night Circus. He successfully does so, but in the process he meets, Poppet, a girl who is twin to her brother Widget and who were both born on the circus' opening night. Poppet helps him find his way out of the circus and gives him a single white glove as proof to be presented to his sister that he completed the dare. Bailey doesn't see Poppet again until many years later when the circus comes back into town, and another love story begins. We are shown Bailey's story as something that is happening in a different time, years later, but tied into the same story started by Celia and Marco years before and ends with Bailey becoming a pivotal part to how the story ends.
In between the stories of these characters, the author takes us inside the circus ourselves, to experience what it was like to eat the chocolate mice, drink the cocoa, watch the illusionist turn a book into a dove, watch the contortionist bend herself into unimaginable angles, and the fortune teller tell us what our future holds.
I enjoyed this book very much, so much that I will most likely read it again. Summit Entertainment has a film deal for this book and I just can't wait to see how the imagery of this book will be translated into film. Reading this book will wake up your senses and open up your mind to a world you never thought could actually exist and make you wonder "WHAT IF?"
(Originally reviewed at JJiReads.blogspot.com)