This one, surprisingly enough, did not win any awards, despite all the talk about it. I went into reading Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus with a little bit of hesitation. You see, I'm a literary hipster; if something's too mainstream, I'll avoid it on principle. Oh, I know it sounds bad, but come on. Think of it from my p0int of view. I read more than anyone I know. If a person who reads three books a year comes and raves about the latest fad novel, I think I'm allowed to take their opinion with a grain of salt when they say it's the best thing they've ever read. Your literary tastes are limited to Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games; excuse me if I don't weigh your views on the same level as my own.
Anyway, I ordered The Night Circus from the library on a whim, figured I'd give it a stab. Interestingly enough, it begins with a section in second-person present tense. That's just a teaser, though. The book drops into third-person soon enough, though it retains the present tense. I don't really like that choice in most cases, but this book was good enough that I was able to overlook it for the most part.
Where the novel succeeds is atmosphere. A spooky, mysterious circus, magic and a mysterious contest, nineteenth century Europe. The descriptions are tantalizing. The whole thing appealed to my sense of the theatrical. The plot is actually quite basic, centering around the aforementioned magic contest. Watching the characters and the circus grow and unfold alongside each other, the experience of the novel, is the real prize here. I quite liked Celia. She was... Well, the word that comes to mind is "cool." Celia was cool. Always in control, knowing what the score was, did not, and this was what really did it for me, did not allow romance to turn her into a vapid second-fiddle heroine. Not for the most part, at any rate, and less than Marco. Which is not to say that I disliked Marco. He was fine. There just wasn't as much of interest in him to me personally. The one thing I thought was lacking was the ending. There was rather a build up to a big defining moment for the resolution of the contest and the end of the Night Circus, but I thought that the resolution was a bit too pat. Not enough to earn my dislike, though. Overall, I wholeheartedly endorse this book for anyone with a love of magic, mystery, and historical fiction.
Update 2/28: This book did win an Alex award, so there's that.