Hey everyone, I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year – for me it was pretty awesome, so it would be nice if it was good all round. And of course, one staple of my own Christmas hoard is books… lots and lots of books.

My first acquisition, and one which I am very grateful for, is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. One should never judge a book by its cover, and Night Circus proves this. Despite its very chic, black-on-white-with-a-splash-of-red (very relevant to the story) cover design, the small blurb on the back is anything but promising. Personally I found it cringingly clichéd:

“The Circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it… It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”

I told you it was pretty dire. So perhaps I can give you a more inviting precedent to pick up the book: the plot revolves around a point where magic and reality collide, filled with mystical intrigue and quite a few impossibilities. There’s an inevitable romance, which for the reader is the best kind, as you’re constantly screaming at the characters to get together. And there’s collateral damage as the inevitable romance is also impossible, being between two magicians of interesting and rather ostentatious talent on two warring sides of a competition which no one knows how to win. As the competition, and the circus that serves as its venue, spirals out of control, the two protagonists Celia and Marco must find a way to love each other despite the not inconsequential boundaries, including one brilliantly cruel father and quite a few laws of physics.

While the romance side is quite prominent, possibly making it more accessible to a female readership, there are also other little tweaks which can make it an interesting read for all. The circus itself, a magical playing field where magicians Celia and Marco try to outdo each other by creating weird and wonderful attractions that leave many of the circus attendees addicted, is a brilliant setting for the story, in all its monochromatic glory. It boasts living statues, a bonfire of white flame, a garden of permanent ice, a wishing tree and a clock that changes colour. The idea of the competition, a rivalry which tests different methods of magical teaching, is also clever as you find yourself picking a side (I was more for Celia, personally) and gives it more of a Hunger Games-like dimension.

The book, for me, was a nice way to escape over Christmas. You’re stuck inside, because it’s raining, and have spent the last week with the exact same group of people (usually family). This book, while not being the most brilliant, Booker prize-winning novel, is mystically opulent and really draws you into its weird and wonderful world. Written in present tense with short, jumpy chapters (something which can be annoying, but I found that Morgenstern did it well, and there weren’t any stupid one page chapters), you feel like you’re right there in the action, slightly disorientated but completely at one with the characters. You feel the excitement of the circus, and I couldn’t put the book down until I reached the very end.

Another thing that keeps you reading, it has to be said, is the love story. One character describes the circus as “a series of love letters” between the two main characters, and The Night Circus does have that mystical, romantic feel about it. On the whole, I found that the love side of it was done very well. Though perhaps the central point of the story, its prominence was not accompanied by long winded, adjective-heavy descriptions of kisses or either character’s eyes. It was instead economically worded, romantic enough that I found myself falling into it a bit (when you become really invested in the outcome of a novel you know it must be good), but without the drippy quality that turns books slightly insipid. The Night Circus was first and foremost a fantasy novel, and kept the focus on that.

The Night Circus is a decadent read for fans of books like The End of Mr. Y, the sort of decadent, mind-bending story that at the end leaves you a little confused but forgiving. I really enjoyed it, perhaps in part due to my feminine persuasion, but I think the book is a brilliant escape route into a magical version of Victorian life.