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Zoe Triska

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'The Night Circus' Review: The Next 'Harry Potter'?

Posted: 09/13/11 09:13 AM ET

"The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not."

So should you read Erin Morgenstern's debut novel, "The Night Circus?" The short answer: "Yes." The book is engaging and magical, entrancing the reader every step of the way.

Even the first three sentences of the novel, as seen above, transport the reader to another place. With creations such as a beautiful garden made entirely of non-melting ice, and a house of mirrors that shows you more than just distorted images of yourself, Morgenstern creates a circus of which one can only dream. What better name name for it then than "Le Cirque Des Rêves" - French for "The Circus of Dreams"?

Not only does a circus provide constant stimulation, but it is also a great setting for making the reader feel both creeped out and exhilarated. Ray Bradbury perfectly displayed the terrifying aspects of a circus in his novel, "Something Wicked This Way Comes," and Morgenstern follows suit.

Her circus features both beautiful and creepy characters, and though everything at her circus is colored only in black and white, Morgenstern's circus employees embody many shades of gray.

She tells the story of Celia and Marco, bound together by an oath made during their childhood. They are both opponents and lovers, and only later do they discover that their magic duel must end in the death of one of them.

Some might simply dismiss this perhaps as a frothy YA (Young Adult) love story or a piece of genre fiction, labels perhaps attached to it due to "The Night Circus"'s recurring comparison to "Harry Potter." It is actually far from either.

It seems a shame that this will be Morgenstern's only book on "Le Cirque Des Rêves," though I must admit that it couldn't have ended more fittingly.

After reading the novel, I had a short phone interview with Erin Morgenstern, whose novel came out today.

Some critics have placed "The Night Circus" into the category of Young Adult. Do you consider it YA?

No, not at all. It was never intended as YA. I always thought of it as an adult novel. I'm guessing it's because people bring up the "Harry Potter" comparison. I think it definitely has crossover appeal though.

What's so magical about a circus?

I'm not big on traditional circuses, but there's something about an entertainment venue that you're completely immersed in, 360 degree entertainment. It's easier to lose yourself in that kind of world than a play or a movie.

If you could join the circus, what would be your dream job?

I've always wanted to learn fire art, even though it scares me a little bit.

How is the next book coming along?

I'm still jotting down notes. It's in the messy development stage. The story is starting to show up there. I'm probably not going to have time to work on it until late this year or early next year, though.

Is your method of writing this book similar to your method of the last book?

This one is on a similar track. The story is coming together a little faster because I learned so much while writing "The Night Circus." I have a better idea of structure.

What living author's book would you recommend?

Alan Lightman's "Einstein's Dreams." It's a unique little gem of a book...and it has perfect little vignettes. It influenced the circus I created.