To be honest, Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel has me enchanted right from the start. It is a historical novel about the circus and magic. It is filled with intense visualizations of everything; from the circus, its patrons and its food to it characters and their clothes.
Reading this novel was more like watching something unfold in front your the eyes of your mind: something I enjoy doing. The author’s detailed descriptions do not miss a thing in this story of a beautiful, fictional circus.
The story is set in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, in and around cities like London, Paris and New York.
The Circus arrives without warning.
The story starts with a rivalry between two magicians. One was a public performer called Prospero the Enchanter. His real name was Hector Bowen. His opponent, though, remains somewhat a mystery throughout the book, as not much is revealed about him. He is only referred to as Mr. A. H. or “the man in the grey suit”.
These two magicians engage contestants of their own choice and training in a match where the loser has to pay with death.
Hector Bowen selects his six-year old daughter Celia. His opponent scoops out a nine-year old boy from an orphanage, who later called Marco Alisdair.
Both of these contestants are bound to a lifelong challenge until one emerges victor. They are never completely informed about the contest or their opponent.
They soon become part of a circus, the creation of a theatrical producer called Chandresh Christopher Lefèvre. At this point, intriguing characters like Tsukiko, the contortionist and Herr Friedrick Thiessen, a clock maker, are introduced.
As the story revolves around the two young protagonists, we can see them becoming a part of the circus and eventually and inevitably, each other. What follows is a tale about an intoxicating yet dark world, well balanced between fantasy and reality, rivalry and alliance and destiny and freedom.
I enjoyed reading this book a lot. Even though it has a sentimental ending, I was sucked into Morgenstern’s spellbinding circus. It is filled with magical clocks, beautiful kittens, interesting characters and detailed beauty. It is a must read for all those who love magic—no matter what kind it is.