Two men of magic place a wager and create a competition. The objective is unclear. The rules are unknown and the opponents aren't sure with whom they are competing. However, from this game the Night Circus is born. The circus always arrives unannounced and its next location is never known. The black and white striped tents appear in fields overnight and the gates remain open between sunset and dawn. The magic of this mysterious circus captures the hearts of its creators, its performers, and its patrons with its ever changing venues and dreamlike atmosphere. In the midst of it all, two opponents match their skills in a challenge without even the confines of possibility.
With deft description, Morgenstern draws her readers into the mystery of the Night Circus. Soon, like the characters, they wonder where dream and reality begin. The dream of this circus is sometimes light and carefree with white light, music, and smells of caramel. However, the black and grey shadows show there is a more intense and possibly threatening side to this same magical place. The story is captivating and the characters compelling, but this is not a story of a child's circus. The magic is appropriate for younger ages, but the depth of the story is best saved for teen readers and older.