The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Edit: Almost half a year has passed since I wrote this review, and I as go through blog posts cleaning things up, this remains my favorite book.
There are some books that, when you finish them, you sigh and think, Oh well, that was good. Perhaps it didn't blow you away, but it gave you a sense of completion, it had suspense, tragedy, and happiness woven throughout the story. And, all in all, it was a decent book.
Then there are those novels that make you dread turning the last pages of the story, because you know that once you've finished it, you can never have that experience again. It'll be gone. You won't ever experience the magic of not knowing, of being swept away by the characters and their quirks for the first time.
You want to hold onto that first time with the author.
As I write this, chills rolls down my spine the same way they did when I was finishing Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, the last few pages touched me just as significantly the others did. I will never forget the first time that I read the stories of Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair, but more importantly, I will never forget what it felt like to read those first words: "The circus arrives without warning."
The word 'enchanting' was defined for me when I finished reading this wonderful story.
Intrigue. Mystery. Each chapter is something of a story by its own merit, and the characters within have enough depth to them that they, too, could have their own novels. There were no characters in this book that could be written off as two-dimensional or lacking in substance.
The story begins with two old magicians, curiously old, but suspiciously young-looking. It quickly becomes evident that they have a long, ongoing challenge between each other, but they do not fight or showcase their skills directly. They instead use two people, and from a very young age train them, and without telling them the rules of their challenge, allow their paths in life to intertwine until a 'winner' is determined through a variety of criteria. Yes, it is confusing. I do not mean to give anything away.
The battleground? The Midnight Circus. A place of wonder. If I could describe the circus, it would be the way I describe a child looking at fire for the first time. Wonder. But, in this case, when you enter the circus, you do not need to be a child, you do not need to be full of innocence, ignorance, or a lack of intellect. You can be 'adult', conscious of life's worries, but so long as you are within the fences of the circus, you become ignorant, because you simply cannot explain the power and beauty surrounding you.
All you can do is wonder at it.
Erin Morgenstern's imagination grabs you by the hand, whether you would like her to let go or not, and pulls you along. If you see this novel, whether it is in perfect condition at a bookstore, or frayed and old at the front of someone's garage, do not take it for anything less than a piece of gold that you should snatch before anyone else gets to it first.