Posts Tagged ‘Erin Morgenstern’

These are the days of early dark, which means long nights that call for long books in which to get happily lost. I suggest Erin Morgenstern’s extravagantly imaginative new novel The Starless Sea (Doubleday, review copy), clocking in at 500 pages and stuffed with snippets of fables and fairy tales. The main narrative follows grad student Zachary Eszra Rawlins, whose discovery of an old book leads him on an epic quest to a vast underground library that smells of smoke and honey. From there, it’s on “to sail the Starless Sea and breathe the haunted air.”  It’s quite the voyage. I reviewed the book for the Minneapolis Star Tribune (https://tinyurl.com/ygzsr29h ), and wound up reading it twice, enchanted by the lush prose and the magical world-building. I would still be adrift if not for the fantastic tales that followed, including rereading Morgenstern’s 2012 first novel The Night Circus.

The fantasy of Leigh Bardugo’s thrilling Ninth House (Flatiron Books, purchased hardcover) is grounded in the reality of Yale University, which is built on a nexus of old magic tended to by its very real secret societies. Bardugo introduces a ninth one, Lethe House, which keeps tabs on the other societies and their rituals. Alex, the newest Lethe recruit, isn’t your usual privileged prepster, but the high-school dropout has an unusual talent in that she can actually see the ghosts — the Grays — that linger around the campus and town. But just when Alex is learning how to use her power, her mentor goes missing and a murder unleashes occult forces. Bardugo’s narrative shifts through three recent timelines, each with its own mysteries, and the suspense is killing, especially as the story reaches a revelatory climax and then a graveyard coda. A sequel can’t come too soon.

Heathers meets The Secret History in Katie Lowe’s intense debut The Furies (St. Martin’s, e-galley), which is set in an all-girl boarding school on the British coast. New to Elm Hollow, Violet falls in with friends Alex, Robin and Grace, becoming part of a study group led by charismatic teacher Annabel. The girls, vulnerable and angry, are at first fascinated and then consumed by Annabel’s lessons on Greek mythology, Celtic legend and witchcraft. Revenge and murder follow. Lowe nails the girls’ cascading emotions, their angst and insecurity as she charts their growing belief in ancient rituals and their own powers.

If Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game is one of your favorite books, don’t miss Kate Raccicula’s smart, playful homage Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts (HMH, digital galley). Fund-raiser and researcher Tuesday loves a good puzzle, but she gets more than she bargained for when eccentric Boston billionaire Vincent Pryce dies, leaving behind clues to a portion of his vast fortune. Joining Tuesday in the city-wide treasure hunt are her  theatrical friend Dex, lonely neighbor girl Dorry, mysterious businessman Archie, and Abby, the ghost of her teenage best-friend. Then there’s Lyle, the widow of the dead man, who knows more than she’s letting on. Interwoven with the fun and games, though, are insights into families and friendships, grief and love.

Things — and people — are not what they seem in W.C. Ryan’s atmospheric A House of Ghosts (Arcade, digital galley), a classic country house mystery with a whiff of the paranormal. In the winter of 1917, British arms tycoon Lord Highmount bows to the wishes of his grieving wife and arranges for a spiritualist gathering at his Devon home in hopes of contacting his two sons killed in the war. Among those visiting Blackwater Abbey are undercover agents Kate Cartwright, whose brother died at the Somme, and Captain Robert Donovan, recently returned from the front. Cue a winter storm, a seance and murder.



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The circus is coming . . .

Thrilling news, but only the reveurs — the dreamers sweetly obsessed by the mysterious night circus —  hear it ahead of time. Otherwise, the circus appears without warning, its black-and-white tents suddenly there. Le Cirque de Reves:  Opens at nightfall, closes at dawn.

 Step right up! This way to the Hall of Mirrors, that tent for the Cloud Maze! Get lost in the Labyrinth, pause in the  Garden of Ice! Marvel at the flying kittens, the living statues, the contortionist in the glass box, the illusionist with birds of feather and fire! Follow the Tunnel of Stars to catch the Carousel! Right this way, past the towering clock and glowing bonfire! Have a sugar flower, or a caramel apple! Step right up!

Prepare to be enchanted by Erin Morgenstern’s extravagantly imaginative debut novel The Night Circus. Magical and mysterious, it is indeed the stuff that dreams are made of. The turn-of-the century villagers who wander spellbound from tent to tent are unaware the circus is really an arena in which two sorcerers,  trained since childhood, compete against one another in a duel of magical skill.  That it is a duel to the death even the adversaries, Celia and Marco, do not know. Of course they fall in love, and the fate of the circus — and all whose lives are entwined with it — hangs in the balance.

This is the major plot of  The Night Circus, but its various storylines are overshadowed by the authorial flourishes. You become so entranced by the scenery, Morgenstern’s phantasmagorical images and poetic prose, you almost forget the play and the players.  Intriguing characters such as clockmaker Frederick, the twins Poppet and Widget, dreaming farmboy Bailey, and fortuneteller Isobel, become lost in the shuffle of flashbacks, the swirl of smoke and mirrors.

Morgenstern characterizes The Night Circus as a fairy tale, and it is by way of  such modern masters as Angela Carter, Ray Bradbury, Susanna Clarke, Peter Beagle, and Neil Gaiman, as well as the Victorians and Grimm. But that you can see how she does it  doesn’t make her magic less impressive. Step right up!

Open Book: I first read a digital galley of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus (Doubleday) provided by the publisher through NetGalley. But then when it came out in hardcover a couple of weeks ago, I bought a copy because it is such a beautiful book, inside and out.

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