It’s rare to find a book that feels like a real-life experience, but that is the perfect description for Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. Not only does the book contain dueling, Victorian magicians, but Morgenstern’s details and descriptions make it feel like you are right there with them. This novel is not just a passive reading experience–The Night Circus is truly a magical experience to add to your classroom bookshelves.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that earn me a small commission, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products that I personally use and love, or think my readers will find useful.
What Drew Me To The Night Circus
I received The Night Circus as a Christmas gift, but it had been on my wishlist for a long time. Now, I know it will be an excellent addition to my classroom bookshelves.
For the sake of transparency, you have to understand that everything about this book–magic, circuses, victorian clothing–is my jam.(I’ve worked at a renaissance faire for the last fifteen years, and that’s basically as close as you can come nowadays to a traveling Victorian circus.)
I was probably destined to love this book regardless of its narrative style.
Morgenstern’s writing, however, delivers all of those elements perfectly. Her descriptions feel luxurious–you can touch every swatch of velvet, taste every drop of liqueur-filled chocolate, and feel the scratch of stiffened lace.
Without being long and dreary, her writing lingers over every scent, sound, and feeling. You want to savor every scene.
Reading this book feels like stepping into an incredibly vivid dream.
What Makes The Night Circus “Lit”?
The story follows two magicians, Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair. Their guardians raise each according to different schools of magical philosophy, hoping to prepare their wards for competition against one another.
It is not until Celia and Marco reach adulthood that this competition begins. At the behest of Celia’s trainer and father, the competition takes place in a public arena: a traveling circus.
Turn by turn, Celia and Marco use the circus to exhibit their own magical prowess, while simultaneously attempting to keep the real magic a secret from awestruck audiences.
Yet, as they compete against one another, they come to highly regard each other’s skills. Their relationship becomes less adversarial and grows into a partnership as they work together to create a unique and wonderful experience for circus-goers.
The romance in this novel is a delightfully slow burn.
The affection that blooms between Marco and Celia feels real–stemming from almost-professional regard to kinship, before becoming full-blown desire.
Yet, I think the real draw here is the circus. Morgenstern interrupts the narrative with second person vignettes that speak to the reader directly. In these short scenes, she describes to the reader the experience that he or she is having at the circus.
It creates the effect of actually being in the Night Circus yourself.
Not only do readers get the backstage pass, but they get to have all the fun of actually attending the Night Circus, too.
When you add this to your classroom bookshelves, you’ll be providing students with a delightful escape.
Who’s the Ideal Reader for The Night Circus?
The Night Circus needs to be on your classroom bookshelves for all those dreamy students.
You know the ones–they might be quietly sketching during your lectures or reading and journaling if they finish early. Your magic-obsessed fantasy-lovers will get a kick out of this book.
If you have any students that enjoy historical fiction, this might be a great book to transition them into a new genre.
There are so many rich, historical details woven into the story, that students who romanticize the past could also fall in love with it.
This book is a joy to read, but it’s short and it’s pretty close to being on-grade level for high schoolers.
It might not, then, be a great book to recommend struggling students or reluctant readers, unless you know they’re interested enough to overcome any reading challenges.
I would highly recommend putting this one on display and book-talking it. It’s the kind of book that through its language or cover will immediately attract its perfect audience. You won’t have to “sell” it too hard to get it in the hands of the right readers.
THE NIGHT CIRCUS: THE FACTS
Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Setting: Victorian England–occasionally another country or in the circus itself
Main Character: Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair, two young magicians trained from early childhood
Page Numbers: 516
Children of Blood and Bone or Scythe are great reads if you love in-depth world creation and epic fantasy.
Carry On is another fantasy, but far less serious than The Night Circus and with an LGBTQ romance instead!
For romance without the fantasy, try Dreamland or Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (LGBTQ).
Need more recommendations for your classroom library? Sign up for the It’s Lit Teaching newsletter and get my must-have titles for high school classroom libraries for FREE!