The Night Circus & Ashes

By Betsy Burton

Once in a while a book appears that is what we in the book business call a crossover—a book that sells to adults and to young adults as well. The Night Circus, a new adult novel, has the magic and romance that make it a natural for young adults and we probably sell as many copies of Ashes, a so-called “young adult” novel to grownups as we do to kids.

Erin Morganstern’s glittering The Night Circus is the story of two young people raised to be competitors in an unwilling game of magical mastery. The game’s board is a black and white circus which travels the world and is open only at night, each of its tents its own magical universe, one more astounding than the next. The tale’s players are the circus creators and denizens, colorfully imagined and artfully wrought; around the edges of this magically imagined world lurk two grey men who pull the strings of the couple at the tale’s center: Celia and Marco. Are they destined for the competition for which they have both been trained almost from birth? Or are they meant for the love that likewise seems their fate? Who can they trust and to whom should they be loyal?

In Ashes that same issue haunts Alex. On a hike in the northern woods to mourn her dead parents, she encounters a belligerent young girl and her grandfather. The grandfather dies, suddenly and violently and for some reason everything that is digitally powered goes dead as well. As Alex, the child she adopts, and a young soldier team up, it is hard to tell not just who can be trusted but worse, who is or is not human.

In their very different ways Ashes and The Night Circus are prototypical fairy tales, full of dark undercurrents that delve into hidden recesses of the human psyche. Both are tales of survival in a world gone mad. But the real magic in each is a story that holds the reader in thrall from one luminous, terrifying page to the next.

ERIN MORGENSTERN is a writer and multimedia artist who describes all her work as “fairy tales in one way or another. She lives in Massachusetts and this is her first novel.

ILSA J. BICK is a child psychiatrist, film scholar, former Air Force major, and full time author. She also wrote the award-winning, Draw the Dark and lives in rural Wisconsin.

Previously broadcast on KUER, 90.1.

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