But even if you’re not ready for clown shoes, you’ll enjoy escaping into Erin Morgenstern’s enchanting first novel, The Night Circus ... more than merely re-creating the Greatest Show on Earth, Morgenstern has spun an extravaganza that makes P.T. Barnum look smaller than Tom Thumb ... Echoing the immense pleasure of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell ... In ominous, atmospheric chapters of just a few pages each, Morgenstern moves quickly through the children’s supernatural preparation ...In fact, there’s probably too much going on here, even for a three-ring circus, and so many colorful characters that the protagonists can seem a bit underdeveloped ...Indeed, one of the most enthralling aspects of this novel is watching two lovers unfettered by the laws of nature or physics cast secret tokens of their affection to each other.
In The Night Circus, her debut novel, Erin Morgenstern works hard to create just such a sense of magic, but there finally seems to be something too sensible about her sensibility to pull off the trick. The novel is... just too real to be believed ... the echoes resound: The Tempest, Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus, any of Dickens’s sensitive and beleaguered children, the HBO show Carnivàle, the brilliant Philip Pullman trilogy His Dark Materials, with its tender adolescent pair, even Romeo and Juliet ... the two most powerful kinds of magic there are — the power of cruelty and the power of love — receive the least page time here, their pungency muffled in ice gardens, intricate clocks and floor-sweeping gowns that change color ... It’s not as pretty a spectacle, but that’s a story that grips the heart.
...Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, the story of two young magicians pitted against each other in an intricate, mysterious and lifelong competition ... Morgenstern is both a writer and a visual artist, and the world of The Night Circus is elaborately designed, fantastically imagined and instantly intoxicating — as if the reader had downed a glass of absinthe and leapt into a hallucination ... Having never published a single word before Doubleday scooped up her book, Morgenstern is living the kind of scrappy success story that adds mystique to an already hyped project ... As Morgenstern's sometimes exhilarating high-wire act comes to its close, The Night Circus almost evaporates, as if fading into the nocturnal haze with the flashbulbs and tents.