[[quoteright:313:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/nightcircus_9262.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:313:[[ArcWords The circus arrives without warning.]]]]

->''The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.''
-->--''The Night Circus'', opening lines

In 1886 a traveling circus became a sensation. Open only at night and constructed entirely in black and white, the ''Cirque des Reves'' is almost literally a circus of dreams.

However, something strange is going on behind the scenes. Prospero the Enchanter and Mr. Alexander H-- have a game. Trained from a young age, their students [[MadScientistsBeautifulDaughter Celia]] and [[HermeticMagic Marco]] compete in a battle of imagination and will. The scene of their battle is the Cirque, and the game affects the lives of the patrons and performers alike. The only catch to the game? The competitors don't know the rules, they don't know how to win or when they'll win, and they don't even know who their opponent is (at first). All they know is the intimate sense of familiarity they get from one another with each breathtaking addition to the circus that pushes the boundaries of reality.

It is a clever allegory for a number of heavy philsophical themes, each of which seamlessly blend in the narrative.

Published in fall of 2011, ''The Night Circus'' is Erin Morgenstern's debut novel. The novel also was adapted into a web game by Failbetter Games, the creators of ''VideoGame/FallenLondon''.

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!!This book provides examples of:

* AbusiveParents: Hector Bowen.
** Celia's unnamed mother is implied to be this. She called her "the devil's child" and is presumably the reason the mother committed suicide.
** Mr. A H-- is a more mild example. He is certainly ''neglectful'', and perhaps as emotionally abusive as Hector (if not as physically abusive).
* AboveGoodAndEvil: Both Hector Bowen and Mr. A H-- [[spoiler:(especially in his conversation with Widget in 1903)]] show a great deal of amorality towards their actions. It's remarked by several characters that they may have forgotten what it means to be human anymore.
* AbsurdlyHighStakesGame: The Challenge.
* AllPartOfTheShow: Vast components of the circus that should be physically impossible are simply accepted as being extraordinary engineering, resourcefulness and showmanship.
* AlternateHistory
* AnachronicOrder: Bailey's chapters are interspersed amongst the general narrative, despite being set towards the end. The climax of the novel is when the two narratives meet.
* AnAesop: Where to ''begin?!'' The book is expertly laced with them.
** [[spoiler: Stories have power ('magic' as it is stated)]] is presented at the very end, a lesson most tropers probably appreciate.
** The Challenge is inevitable. Both participants had no choice in starting it. Neither of them know the rules, and at the start, there is no discernable way to "win". Sound like RealLife to anyone else?
* ArrangedMarriage: Why Isobel fled Barcelona.
* ArtInitiatesLife
* AngstySurvivingTwin: [[spoiler: Lalaine Burgess, of the Burgess sisters, who are not strictly identical twins but fraternal sisters that people regard as twins]].
* AwfulTruth: [[spoiler: The Challenge ends when one competitor dies. Which sucks in itself, but is especially painful given Marco's and Celia's infatuation with one another.]]
** [[spoiler: And if Tsukiko's story means falling in love with your competitor is normal then]] this sad turn of events is tragically standard.
* TheBeautifulElite: Celia and Marco, to some degree. They're both immediately well-known for their good looks; by the middle of the novel, they're quite popular and Celia, at least, leads a rather illustrious life.
* BigNameFan: [[invoked]] Friedeck Thiessen is an in story example.
* BookEnds: [[spoiler:"The circus arrives without warning. . ."]]
* BrokenBird: Tsukiko.
* [[spoiler: BittersweetEnding: Celia and Marco both escape the challenge... but are eternally bound to the circus as pseudo-ghosts and may or may not go insane from being immortal.]]
* BoyMeetsGirl: [[spoiler: Isobel and Marco, before Marco meets Celia anyway.]]
* CallingTheOldManOut: Celia has a moment like this with her father, [[spoiler: when she realizes that to win means the other must die, she tells her father that the only reason these games go on is because he and Alexander are much too cowardly to face off againt each other.]]
* CameBackWrong: [[spoiler: Hector Bowen.]]
* CastsNoShadow: Mr. A. H--
* ChekhovsGun: [[spoiler: Hector Bowen's failed experiment]].
* ChekhovsGunman: [[spoiler:Tsukiko, the mysterious contortionist who auditions for the circus before it begins hiring, is the 'victor' of a previous competition between Hector and Alexander. Bailey, the young reveur, becomes Marco's replacement as keystone for the circus.]]
* CircusBrat: the twins Poppet and Widget grow up in the circus. Their parents train big cats and they have their own act, with kittens.
* DoingItForTheArt: Chandresh, in-universe.
** To clarify, the introduction of Chandresh is him throwing a knife at a review of one of his productions that describes it as "almost transcendent." He is [[BerserkButton positively furious]] at the word ''almost.''
--> Clearly he must be doing something wrong. If his productions are merely almost transcendent, when the possibility of true transcendence exists somewhere nearby, waiting to be attained, then there is something else that must be done.
* DragonsPreferPrincesses: The clock includes a princess who paces as a dragon's prisoner.
* DrivenToSuicide: [[spoiler:The challenge is a contest to see which student breaks first and can only end when one of the challengers decides to end it themselves. Tsukiko's opponent in the last challenge ended it when she burned herself with her own magic.]]
** Also, Celia is first delivered to her father after her mother kills herself. [[spoiler:When Celia considers ending the challenge herself, she tells Marco that she was always more her mother's daughter.]]
* DueToTheDead:
** Celia gets many condolence letters and flower because of Hector Bowen's death.
** [[spoiler: Tara Burgess]]'s funeral has many mourners and many flowers
* EarnYourHappyEnding
* EnsembleCast: Very nearly ''every single character'' gets to be the viewpoint character for at least one scene. Marco and Celia are the main characters, but not by much.
* FaintingSeer: Poppet, especially when Bailey comes into the picture.
* AFateWorseThanDeath: [[spoiler: Hector's attempt at permanently dodging death results in him being trapped forever as an insubstantial ghost-thing. It's never quite explained.]]
* FirstNameBasis: Celia Bowen and Herr Thiessen, once they meet.
* {{Foreshadowing}}: This exchange.
--> '''Mr. A. H--:''' She has remarkable control for one so young, but such a temper is always an unfortunate variable. It can lead to impulsive behavior.
--> '''Hector:''' [[TemptingFate She'll either grow out of it or learn to control it. It's a minor issue.]]
** When Marco tells Isobel about how he first met Celia, she pulls out a Tarot card "L'Amoreux" (The Lovers) - [[spoiler: a man between two women]].
* FortuneTeller: Isobel. Celia pretends to do this in her youth as a way to make money. [[spoiler: Poppet replaces Isobel at some point according to the second-person circus-description sections.]]
* FramingDevice: [[spoiler: Widget is the narrator, which makes perfect sense in-universe since his ability allows him to "read" people and their pasts. He has a very extensive knowledge of what happened, and relays it to Mr. A. H-- in the form of the book we, the audence, are reading. All the details of magic that are glossed over are can be attributed to holes in Widget's own understanding.]]
* {{Geas}}: Celia and Marco are bound using rings. [[spoiler: If they try to leave the field of play and mean it, they experience unendurable pain.]]
--> '''Celia:''' We do not feel the bars unless we press against them.
* HalfIdenticalTwins: Widget and Poppet.
* [[HermeticMagic Hermetic Mage]]: Marco.
* HiddenDepths: Many of the characters appear one dimensional at first, but reveal more of their personalities as the novel progresses.
* HonoraryAunt: Tante Padva
* [[IronicNickname Ironic Stage Name]]: Hector Bowen is the exact opposite of his stage name's namesake, [[Theatre/TheTempest Prospero the Magician.]] Whereas Prospero was was a loving father who willingly gave up his magic at the end of his story, Hector is both physically and emotionally abusive to Celia and is consumed by his magic.
* ItWasAGift: Poppet's glove to Bailey
* JustAStupidAccent: Tsukiko has problems with conjugating the verbs, yet she drops expressions like "social obligation" as if it's no big deal.
* {{Kitsune}}: On the carousel
* KnightInShiningArmor: The Knight of Swords.
* LaserGuidedAmnesia: Marco can erase memories.
* LipstickLesbian: [[spoiler:Tsukiko, [[SingleTargetSexuality at least regarding her opponent]]]].
* MagicalRealism: Is to magic what ''Literature/TheTimeTravelersWife'' is to TimeTravel. It even has a plug by Audrey Niffenegger on the back.
* MagiTek: Most of the tents in the circus consist of magic charms overlaying simplistic clockwork toys.
** The trope is invoked by Mr. Barris, the engineer, working in collaboration with the Circus's two magicians to create works that should be physically impossible, but by the very flambuoyant nature of the Circus such architechtural extravagance is accepted by the general public and it goes unnoticed.
* [[MadScientistsBeautifulDaughter Mad Magician's Beautiful Daughter]]: Celia to Hector
* MagiciansAreWizards: Hector and Celia.
* MagicallyBindingContract: At the end of the story, [[spoiler:Bailey is bound to the circus by Marco's ring.]]
** Not to mention [[spoiler: Marco and Celia]] in The Challenge.
* MakeAWish: At the Wishing Tree.
* TheMatchmaker: Hector Bowen tells Mr. A. H- that he should have been this.
* MeaningfulName: Tsukiko's name means [[spoiler: Moon Child. While her opponents name meant Sunflower or Facing the sun, depending on what kanji are used to write it. Considering Tsukiko stated her element was water, and Hinata's was fire...]]
* NarratorAllAlong: [[spoiler: Widget]]
* NiceJobBreakingItHero: [[spoiler: In one night, Celia invites Alexander to the circus to decide a victor for the Challenge, Marco tells Isobel that he loves Celia, and Isobel removes the tempering spell she had placed on the circus. These things combined lead to the death of Herr Thiessen.]]
* OurGryphonsAreDifferent: Celia uses them as figures on the carousel.
* PaperThinDisguise: Celia can move about the circus, unrecognized, by donning colored clothes.
* ParlorGames: If Bailey hadn't picked Dare in his game of Truth or Dare with his friends/sister, well... the consequences would be substantial.
* SacrificialLion: [[spoiler: Herr Thiessen, whose death doubles as a potential {{Tearjerker}}]]
* ShoutOut: Friedrick Thiessen's article about Le Cirque des RÍves is translated into English and published in London under the title "Literature/NightsAtTheCircus".
* SinkOrSwimMentor: Alexander.
* StageMagician: Many of the main characters.
* StarCrossedLovers: [[SubvertedTrope Subverted]] in that [[spoiler: Celia figures out a way for her and Marco to end the game and be together by duplicating the spell that caused her father to become insubstantial]].
** [[spoiler:Tsukiko and her opponent]] count though.
* [[spoiler: TakeAThirdOption: Celia and Marco regarding The Challenge, though the author leaves it to us whether or not this will turn out for the better...]]
* {{Telepathy}}: Generally all the magical characters have some bizarre perception of the world that is never fully explained, but it allows them to pick up on weird things like whether someone is using an alias. Widget's in particular is very accurate and powerful.
* TarotTroubles: Some of the readings Isobel gives to Celia may qualify.
* ThinkTwins: The Murray twins.
* ThirteenIsUnlucky: But they celebrate the anniversary anyway.
* TrailersAlwaysSpoil: The trailer, book jacket, and promo material all advertise that Celia and Marco get together, making it a ForegoneConclusion that the latter will break up with Isobel. All this despite that Celia and Marco don't properly meet until halfway through the book.
* TrainingFromHell: This is how Celia is taught to refine and control her magic.
** Specifically, her father repeatedly [[AbusiveParents slashes her fingers open]] in order to force her to learn healing magic.
** Not to mention he kills a bird right in front of her when she says she's uncomfortable trying to 'fix it'. Keep in mind Celia is maybe six years old when this happens.
** Or when he breaks her wrist for annoying him with questions about The Challenge, uses it as an excuse to make her practice healing more, and then admonishes her for crying.
* TheUnchosenOne: [[spoiler: Bailey]].
* UncannyFamilyResemblance: The manager knows that Celia is meant for Prospero by the eyes, which are a perfect image.
* UntoUsASonAndDaughterAreBorn: the twins were born on the night the circus opened.
* UnwittingPawn: Probably everyone.
* AWizardDidIt: Many of the magical effects created by the two magicians are truly incredible, but the nuts and bolts workings of them are never explained or even really hinted at.
** [[JustifiedTrope Justified]] in-universe. See FramingDevice above.
* WeirdnessCensor: How illusionists such as Celia and Hector are able to pass their magic off as tricks.
* WhoWantsToLiveForever: [[spoiler:Hector Bowen.]] Mr. H-- also argues to Widget that someday [[spoiler:Celia and Marco might regret what they did.]]
* WomanScorned: Isobel.
* [[spoiler:YouCantFightFate: Averted, until Isobel decides to remove the "tempering" spell on the Circus]]

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!!The game provides examples of:
* AllThereInTheManual
* EarlyBirdCameo: Many of the characters in the book were first publicized in the game.
* GayOption
* MaybeMagicMaybeMundane: From the point of view of the player.