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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I was nervous about reading this book because I normally hate magical realism. But I'm glad it was picked for my book club because I liked this book.

Prospero and Alexander (not their real names) are magicians and competitors in Victorian London. Prospero actually performs as a magician which is interesting because he is using actual real magic, but has to make it appear to be illusions that could happen without real magic. They get into a verbal sparring match and end up challenging each other to a duel of sorts (and not their first one). Prospero's young daughter has recently shown up on his doorstep and already shows signs of being able to do magic. He will pit her against any student of Alexander's finding to discover which is the better magician. The children don't know about the rules of the competition, particularly they don't know about the way it will end. But once they are about twenty, the circus that is the realm of the competition is created. Celia, Prospero's daughter, travels with the circus as it's Illusionist. Marco, Alexander's student, stays in London working for the creator of the circus.

I don't want to give away any more about the denouement or how the story circles around itself and weaves itself into a tight web. There was some jumping around from one time frame to another which was confusing but in the end it turned out it wasn't vital to know which year those scenes occurred in--the two storylines eventually met up. And I figured out why the magic didn't bother me this time: magic when you're baking is so out of left field, it makes me roll my eyes. But magic at a circus is appropriate. It works within its context in a way that magical realism never has for me before. This wasn't even remotely pitched as "everyday, ordinary life" or anything like that. There was a film of magic and mystery covering every thing and person related to the circus in any way. You definitely had to suspend disbelief, but in a way that I really enjoyed, and didn't find exasperating. The book was a lovely change of pace, a very different kind of story that completely took me to another place and time.

I bought this book at a sale at my local Scholastic Book Fair warehouse.

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