I am enraptured by this book. It will either work for you or not, and it worked in spades for me. This book is not really about plot and only loosely about the main characters; it is all
about atmosphere and world-building, both in place and in the background pastiche of characters. It's the sort of book whose enjoyment benefits more from a sense of whimsy and wonder than skepticism, one that focuses more on the results of the magic than describing the structure behind it, and I am a-okay with that. It's a magic competition housed in an unusual circus at the end of the 19th century - you're either already clamoring for more, or your not.
To be very honest, I didn't particularly care about the main characters, their teachers, or their love story. I was not invested in how things turned out for them, even if I did love the distinctly non-confrontational aspect of the ultimately-still-ruthless competition. I was in this entirely for reading about the circus - both the descriptions of the acts/tents/performers themselves and the, for lack of a better word, fannish community that sprang up around it. Morgenstern gets
that sort of consuming enthusiasm for someone else's creative work and captures it beautifully. That right there would be enough to win me over, even if I didn't want to be consumed by enthusiasm for the circus, too.
Full disclosure: at least in large part I think my huge enjoyment of this book is because I spent the vast majority of it going, "Eeeeeeeee, this reminds me so much of Sleep No More, except with magic!" (in feeling, if not actual substance), which remains one of my favorite theater experiences ever. And, quelle surprise, in the author's note at the end, she acknowledges Punchdrunk, the company behind Sleep No More, as an inspiration. So, you know, it's a good recommendation vehicle. Did you like Sleep No More? You'll love The Night Circus! Did you love The Night Circus? Get a small taste of it in person with Sleep No More! And much like Sleep No More, the more you are willing to run with the set-up, the little hints and tastes of the world the author gives you, the more you'll get out of it.