The Midnight Circus is a 2011 historical fantasy by Erin Morgenstern and revolves around the lives of Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair. Set in Victorian-era London, the book follows a magic duel between the apprentice of Prospero the Enchanter and Mr. Alexander. The duel is intended to be a test of their respective teaching methods. Celia Bowen is the daughter of Prospero and is trained under his watchful eye. What starts as an involved mentorship, turns into a toxic relationship. Prospero doesn’t see Celia as a daughter, but as a contestant, one who is capable of winning him a duel he has lost until now.
Marco is taught differently. Alexander rarely interacts with him. He lives alone in an apartment with only books to keep him company.
After their respective training, they are both sent to work at the Midnight Circus, Celia as an impressionist and Marco as the proprietor’s assistant.
This is where the story really begins. Due to its non-linear narrative, this book does make for a confusing read, but Morgenstern’s beautiful descriptions and masterful storytelling more than makeup for this. The book has a somewhat gothic aesthetic but oh! does it own it. At no point in the story does the reader feel alienated or disconnected.
Balancing multiple narratives while simultaneously creating an engaging narrative, Morgenstern really doesn’t disappoint. The twists are unpredictable and leave the reader exhilarated.
I would strongly recommend this book to lovers of historical fantasies who don’t mind a bit of a challenge.