This book was so highly recommended in CBR III, it was the first novel I read in 2012. I loved it, and have recommended it to several people in the weeks since I finished it. I have been thinking about it a lot since I finished it, as well.
The novel is a love story tangled in a magical duel, father figures battling with proteges as a means of figuring out which magical method is superior. It sounds silly, but the novel makes it seem very immediate, as the magic is not really illusions as we commonly think of it, but instead manipulating the fabric of the world. Marco and Celia are the current combatants that are trying to best each other, but of course they fall in love during the creation of the circus that serves as an arena.
This novel is very sensual, in that it has detailed descriptions of scents, costumes, circus tents and acts. It uses black, white and red imagery repeatedly, and I could not help but wonder how the strong visual imagery would be depicted in a film. While most of the numerous supporting characters are not very complex, the willful and selfish malevolence of Celia’s father and Marco’s mentor is tangible, and Celia and Marco themselves are intelligent people who take a great deal of pride in their work, making each exhibit a declaration of love in addition to a wondrous accomplishment and a stage in the battle.
I have seen online that the movie rights have been sold to the makers of the Twilight franchise, and that there are comparisons of The Night Circus to both the Twilight series and the Harry Potter series. I don’t really think those are useful comparisons – the writing is quite complex and clearly intended for an adult audience, and I am not sure the book lends itself easily to a series. The only real complaint that I have about the book is that some of the dialogue is a bit clunky, particularly that between Celia and Marco while they are circling each other; they are relatively young and should be using language that flows a bit more smoothly and perhaps with a greater sense of romantic urgency. However, the book is a wonderful read and I cannot recommend it highly enough.