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 “The Night Circus,” by Erin Morgenstern, is a spellbinding first novel of a magical circus, the scene of a contest of magical feats between two fantastically gifted young people, each mentored differently by men who have long been at each other’s throats.

Celia Bowen was six when her mother commits suicide. She is taken to live with her father, Horace Bowen, known as Prospero the Enchanter, a magician who immediately sees that she could win the ultimate game for him.

Prospero contacts his greatest and mysterious rival, Mr. A H (the “mysterious man in the grey suit”)- and proposes a contest.  He will train his daughter and his opponent will train his protégé, Marco Alisdair, an orphan who has potential.

 The stage for the competition is the travelling circus, “Le Cirque des Rêves” (Circus of Dreams), a magical arena that appears only at night and disappears by dawn. What neither tutor anticipates, however, is that Celia and Marco will become attracted to each other as they grow into adulthood.

At first neither child is aware that they will be competing against each other. They enjoy each other’s company, and, together, love creating settings for the most magical and sensual displays of their talents. In fact, they create circus tents just to please each other. Ultimately they discover that the “game” they have been bound to play can end only when just one of them is left standing.

The novel describes a time when all things were considered possible. The writing is imaginative, evocative and visual, as the night circus moves from location to location.