The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern tells the story of two illusionists and star crossed lovers, Celia and Marco, whose entire life has been orchestrated by the machinations of each of their respective mentors in a twisted competition that will span a lifetime and can only have one victor. A gentlemen's wager struck between Celia's father, the magician Prospero the Enchanter and the mysterious man in the grey suit or Mr. A. H. when Celia and Marco are mere children shapes their childhood as each hones their skills in preparation for the challenge. Aware of the game yet not the scope of the deadly wager, Celia and Marco act as mere chess pieces in the challenge with Le Cirque des Rêves (The Circus of Dreams) serving as the venue; a traveling circus which functions from sunset to sunrise and where each will practice their magic and bring to life their most breathtaking flights of fancy for the nightly patrons and for each other.
The book is pure poetry in its descriptions of the magic crafted by each opponent; from the Ice Garden created by Marco, where trellises covered in pale roses and frosted peonies are all made of ice; to the Wishing Tree, a tree covered in fire, created by Celia as a complement to Marco's creation. The love story is as fantastical as the magic and even more beautiful. A love where chandeliers break from the energy created by the mere touch of their hands. It's a beautiful story, beautifully written, with beautiful images created with flowery words, but at some point the magic isn't enough and it becomes a bit anti-climactic. The challenge never materializes and instead it becomes a dual exhibition without tension or conflict but with a pretty love story to make up for the fact. So, while I can't say the book is a new favorite, I did enjoy it for many of the reasons listed above.