The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The daughter of an illusionist is pitted against another young student in a magical challenge. As they grow up, they learn more magic, and discover that the venue for their challenge is Le Cirque des Reves -- the Circus of Dreams. They play out their challenge by adding tents with amazing magical features to the circus, like an ice garden, and a cloud room.
Because of the magic, the story is considered fantasy, but it is not Tolkien-style fantasy set in an entirely new world with dwarves and elves. The story takes place in our world -- quite a bit in London and a town in New England, and with entirely human characters. So partly it is about how magic operates in a world that doesn't believe in magic.
I really enjoyed this book. I couldn't put it down, I was staying up late to keep reading. And if you read my last reviews, you know it has been a while since I've gotten that into a book. So I was really happy that I read this one.
I have two negatives, and one is only a slight negative, and the other isn't even about the book mostly. So first negative, I wish there had been more to the ending. It felt a little rushed and just boom, the end. (Obviously I can't tell you more than that). I was satisfied with the ending, I just wish there was more.
The other negative is with the layout of the story. It flips back and forth between a lot of different time periods. A surprising aspect is it actually has chapters where it addresses the reader -- totally uses "you" -- and describes how "you" walk through the circus and what "you" see while "you" are there. I don't think I've ever seen a book do that before. So it flips back and forth between several different times, and you have to pay attention to the chapter headings to know when you are and where you are. Then you are trying to piece together the progression of the story, despite the back-and-forth of the narrative. I know that would be really frustrating for some readers, but for me it's not. My frustration was because I was reading it on the Kindle, and I couldn't just flip back to the previous chapter's chapter heading to see how far in time we skipped. It was really a function of the decreased flipability of pages in the Kindle.
"It is important," the man in the grey suit interrupts. "Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There's magic in that. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that." He takes another sip of his wine. "There are many kinds of magic, after all."
Seriously? How do you not love a book like that?
Read this book. I think you'll love it.