Erin Morgenstern’s bestseller The Night Circus draws readers in with beautiful prose and a uniquely magical world. Two young magicians are bound in a years-long battle to the death in the “arena” of a mysterious and enchanted circus. Whether it’s the creative magic, the hauntingly beautiful atmosphere, or the forbidden love that draws you in, these 12 books will have you under their spell in no time.
1. Caraval, by Stephanie Garber
It’s easy to see why Stephanie Garber’s Caraval is so often compared to The Night Circus. Both center on an eerie, magical circus that changes the lives of those who cross its path. Caraval tells the story of two sisters, Scarlett and Tella, whose lives are uprooted when Tella is kidnapped by the master of the strange Caraval show. Whoever finds her first will win the year’s most dangerous game. As Scarlett joins the competition to try to find her sister before it’s too late, she’s swept away in a magical and emotional game along with the other players, and none of their lives will ever be the same.
2. Where Dreams Descend, by Janelle Angeles
Take one part The Night Circus, one part Moulin Rouge, and a dash of The Phantom of the Opera, and you’ve got Where Dreams Descend, the first in a planned duology. Kallia is a showgirl whose magical talents are suppressed by her mysterious boss Jack. She soon flees to the city and enters a dangerous magic competition in hopes of gaining a place with the Conquering Circus. As Kallia grows closer to Demarco, a reticent and powerful judge with a devastating secret, her own powers surprise everyone and a strange force begins to pick off the competing magicians, one by one.
3. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab
If it’s getting lost in magical, lyrical prose you’re after, then The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue might be just the right pick! Centuries ago, Addie impulsively summoned a dark power and made a deal to escape her life and live forever, but at a cost: she is forgotten by everyone she meets, with only her devilish dealmaker for continuity. Then, one day, she meets a man in a bookstore–and when she returns, he remembers her.
4. The Weight of Feathers, by Anne-Marie Mclemore
For more of the “fated enemies falling in love” trope, pick up The Weight of Feathers, a magical, Romeo & Juliet-esque tale with a circus twist. Lace Paloma is the daughter of a family of traveling “mermaid” performers. She knows of the feud between her family and the tightrope-master Corbeaus. When Cluck, a Corbeau boy, saves Lace’s life, she reevaluates everything she’s been told. Cluck and Lace develop an unmistakable bond, but acting on their growing feelings for each other could turn their families against them and set off a chain reaction of devastation and disaster.
5. The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern
This list wouldn’t be complete without Morgenstern’s other magical masterpiece The Starless Sea. Zachary Ezra Rawlins is just an ordinary grad student when he discovers a mysterious book that leads him on a chase to uncover how his own life story could possibly be depicted in its pages. He journeys through a series of clues that lead him to a magical, enthralling, and dangerous library hidden away from almost all of humanity. Alongside Mirabel, a guardian of the library, and Dorian, whose loyalties seem to change like his appearance, Zachary navigates this strange new world. He must battle for control over stories that have been brewing for ages.
6. The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow
January Scaller, the ward of a wealthy man in the early 1900s, goes on a surprising and magical journey in The Ten Thousand Doors of January. When she stumbles across a strange book in the mansion, she learns about the possibilities of doors to other worlds and the magic of stories and words to unlock these doors, both literally and figuratively. To learn the secrets of her own past, January sets out on a quest that reveals truths about her family, herself, and the incredible power to open Doors and change the world.
7. Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
For another story about a young woman on a magical, twisty, and deeply dangerous journey, try Gods of Jade and Shadow. In 1920s Mexico, Casiopea opens a mysterious box and accidentally frees the Mayan god of death, who enlists her help in recovering his throne from the brother who betrayed him. From Jazz Age locales on earth to the dangers of the Mayan underworld below, Casiopea’s journey alongside a god takes her to places she’d never even dared to imagine.
8. The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin
Just as the characters of The Night Circus often find themselves struggling against the fates they know await them, so do the four siblings of The Immortalists. After hearing the dates of their deaths foretold in 1969, the four Gold siblings spend the next 50 years trying to either live up to their destinies or avoid them. Simon flees to San Francisco of the ‘80s, Klara builds a career as a Vegas magician, Daniel becomes an army doctor after 9/11, and Varya delves into niche scientific research about longevity and immortality. As the siblings try to live their lives with the frightening knowledge they hold, their paths raise all sorts of questions about fate, choice, and the stories we tell ourselves.
9. The Hourglass Factory, by Lucy Ribchester
It’s a very different–but equally engrossing–circus that sits at the heart of The Hourglass Factory. In Edwardian London, a famed trapeze artist disappears mid-act. A young, ambitious reporter and a frustrated detective are pulled into the glittering, dangerous underbelly of London in pursuit of what really happened to her. They investigate alongside a colorful cast of supporting characters with secrets of their own. Circus performers mingle with high society in this secretive, decadent underworld, all while a murderer is on the loose with a plot that will throw everything and everyone into chaos.
10. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman’s iconic Stardust has all the magic, danger, and romance that you love in The Night Circus, but with more of a “twisted fairytale” style. When the young, idealistic Tristan sets out to capture a star to woo his aloof ladylove, he ventures beyond the boundaries of their simple village and into magical lands that few have ever explored. Tristan’s adventures in the land of Faerie introduce him to a world full of magical creatures, dangerous adventures, and unexpected discoveries that change his life forever.
11. The Ladies of the Secret Circus, by Constance Sayers
If you thought Le Cirque des Rêves was eerie, then brace yourselves for the Secret Circus, a haunting and magical circus that spans decades through The Ladies of the Secret Circus. In the 1920s, two rival sisters and a painter become entangled in a tale that will reverberate through the generations. In the present day, a young woman’s fiancé disappears the day before their wedding, leading her to investigate her family’s past. She learns about a mysterious, defunct circus, but that’s not all. There’s also a legendary curse that may have been devastating the women of her family for a century.
12. The Crown’s Game, by Evelyn Skye
The central conflict of The Crown’s Game will certainly sound familiar to fans of The Night Circus. Two young magicians, forced to compete against each other by powers far beyond their control, form an intense bond. In an alternate, magical version of tsarist Russia, Vika and Nikolai are the only two enchanters in the kingdom. The winner of their competition will become the tsar’s powerful advisor and official enchanter; the loser must die. Vika and Nikolai, along with a young prince, find themselves irresistibly drawn together, all while knowing that the rules of the game mean they can never have what they want most.