One thing that most people can relate to is the appeal of the unknown and the mysterious. This can be seen especially in the love of magicians and magic all over the world.

“People will see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told they see,” writes Erin Morgenstern in her award-winning novel ”The Night Circus” (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2012).

Morgenstern combines the wonder of the circus with a carefully crafted puzzle to create an experience that leaves you wanting to go to the ring yourself.

The beginning of the book sets up a competition between the students of two famous magicians whose magic seems to be something more than a trick of mirrors and smoke. They exchange a series of ambiguous requirements and promise that their students will play the “game” at a mysterious venue.

One of the most enjoyable parts of reading “The Night Circus” was piecing together what this competition could possibly be. Morgenstern is a master of leaving a tantalizing trail of hints and half-truths so you never quite know the whole story until the very end.

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The main setting of “The Night Circus” is the circus itself. Le Cirque Rêves or The Circus of Dreams is in itself the most mesmerizing part of the novel. Instead of the traditional singular tent and ring, the circus hosts dozens of tents, each with a different act. This allows both visitors of the circus and the reader to spend time exploring and enjoying the different attractions.

But the coolest part is that everything from the tents to the performers are draped all in black and white. The lack of festive color and the dramatic ambiance are part of the reason Morgenstern does so well at pulling you in and keeping you interested and entertained.

The writing is nonlinear, which means that the novel’s chapters jump around in different locations and even years. This actually works really well, especially in regards to the circus itself as it switches back and forth between the main characters and the mysterious competition, to the creation of the circus.

This allows Morgenstern to reveal information and insight as it becomes relevant, which helps readers piece the story together themselves along the way instead of being told outright. But although it works well for the style of story, it could get a little confusing if you forget to read what year it was at the beginning of each chapter.

Besides the great setting and plot, Morgenstern sure knows how to write good characters. They were each unique and had their own motivations and beliefs that didn’t exclusively revolve around the main plot. This extra attention to detail made it easier to relate to each character, no matter how small their role, and actually care about what happened to them.

The two main characters are the two competing students of the aforementioned magicians: Celia and Marco. Except, neither of them actually know who the other is and they do not have as much information on what the competition is as we do — which is to say next to nothing.

Celia and Marco both work at the circus but in two completely different positions, and it takes them over the course of several years to get to know each other beyond acquaintances.

While the two are love interests, the novel is nowhere near to being a romance. And the characters’ spark comes from actual shared interests and spending time together instead of love for the sake of drama like lots of other fiction boasts these days.

Overall, the setting was brilliant and the characters felt real, like their decisions actually had lasting consequences on the plot. Reading it was really fun and made me feel a little smarter as I picked up on the foreshadowing and groundwork expertly laid by Morgenstern.

I would highly recommend “The Night Circus” to anyone looking for an intelligently written book with a slightly more difficult reading level, and to anyone who enjoys a look into the paranormal.

Alison Shepherd is a recent graduate of Bear River High School where she was on both the yearbook and newspaper staffs. Email her at

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