Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Genre: Adult, historical fantasy
Published on September 13, 2011
Published by Doubleday
Pages: 387
Read From: 8.22.14 - 8.25.14

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. 
Within these nocturnal black-and-white-striped tents awaits an utterly unique experience, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air. 
Welcome to Le Cirque des Reves. 
Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way - a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a "game" to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. 
As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lives of all those involved - the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them - are swept up in a wake of spells and charms. 
But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. 
Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I adore the cover art. I love the colors and the swirlies and how the hand and the circus look like they're made from paper.

Characters: Where to start? There are a ton of characters in this book, and each one of them has quite the complicated past. I liked all of them equally; they each brought new and interesting dynamics to the story, and even the ones I hated I loved for what they brought. Celia's father is horrible, but he was perfect for the story. Marco's guardian wasn't much better, but he might have been my favorite, because he was so mysterious and we never got to know everything about him. There was the man who originally came up with the circus - Chandresh - a very eccentric man who also threw these awesome midnight dinners. There was the Asian contortionist, Isobel the soothsayer, Friedrick Thiessen the clockmaker, Bailey the young boy who dreams of nothing but the circus, the red-haired twins Poppet and Widget who were born opening night of the circus, our protagonists Celia and Marco, and many, many others. They were all so interesting and awesome and complex. That said, they also weren't driving force of this book. And I was perfectly fine with that.

The Romance: Celia and Marco eventually fall in love; it happens pretty quickly, though many years are supposed to have passed in the book. Because this world of The Night Circus is so whimsical and fairy tale-ish, the rushed romance really didn't bother me at all. Celia and Marco are adversaries, but they never take that attitude towards their relationship. Their competition is done with great spirit and friendliness; they have no interest in fulfilling whatever quarrel their respective masters have.

Plot: The above synopsis sums it up very well, but just like the characters are not the driving force of this book, the plot actually isn't, either. Marco and Celia's competition is pretty sedate - especially since they choose to be friends rather than rivals. It's a long time before Celia even knows who her competitor is, and by the time she does, she and Marco are already fairly good friends (or at least acquaintances). This isn't the say the plot is boring; it isn't, though a lot of people found it to be. I think it largely due to the fact that they had certain expectations when it came to the plot - that the rivalry would be something like The Prestige, when it isn't at all. This is, at its heart, a love story and about a place where dreams come true; a place where adults can be children once again. The world building is what drives this story fully and completely. The world of Le Cirque des Reves is magical, whimsical, and exactly what the title implies: dreamlike. The story follows the passing of several years, bouncing from one iconic moment to another in no particular order (but it all makes sense in the end). We learn of the circus's origins, how it affects peoples' lives, and more importantly - we get to explore the circus for ourselves. We get to see several of the tents, and no matter who you are, there is that one tent which will stick with you throughout the entire book. Mine was the tent with bottles that contained memories. The era, too, is perfect for the circus, though you can actually very easily picture running into it in the 21st century as well. While I did get wrapped up in Celia and Marco's story, I was mostly invested in the world building. And it is done spectacularly.

Believability: Not applicable. A few people complained that they had a hard time accepting that people could see all these fantastical things and not know that it was magic. Maybe so, but people are also extremely good at ignoring the obvious when it doesn't suit them. Think back of when you were a kid playing games. You knew that the games weren't real; you knew that someone else was leaving coins under your pillow. But you didn't let yourself actually, truly believe that because it was more fun to think it was magic.

Writing Style: Third person, present tense, though it really actually felt like first person. It has the "omnipotent narrator" feel to it, which I really liked. There is only one other Author who pulls off present tense so effectively, and that's Victoria Schwab. Well, now Erin Morgenstern can join her on that impressive list. The present tense worked so amazingly well that I could hardly believe it. Erin Morgenstern is a gifted writer. She has a way with words, sweeping her readers away with her descriptions and ambiance. Imagine a banquet where the desserts and delectable foods are words. That is Erin Morgenstern's writing. The writing is everything with this book. It brings the circus to life.

Content: 1 f-word. Celia and Marco eventually sleep together (surprise, right?), but it isn't a detailed scene.

Conclusion: Despite the sedate plot, the ending is actually very suspenseful. The Author has managed to make you care so much about the circus that when there's a possibility it might cease to exist, you react the way Bailey does. My only complaint with The Night Circus? It isn't real. Everyone had told me that this was a magnificent book, and I'm glad I decided to find out for myself whether or not that was true. From the very beginning, I was hooked. I didn't care how boring it was; the writing style had me completely and totally. Call this a rambling review that doesn't really tell you anything helpful. It is nearly impossible to truly describe what The Night Circus is like. You just have to try it out for yourself.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, eighteen-and-up, fans of historical fantasy and whimsy.


  1. Hmm, it sounds a little weird, but it's about a circus, so I may give it a try. Thanks for the great review!

    1. It is weird. But a good weird. Just be prepared for a slow plot, because like I said - the plot and the characters all actually take backseat to the world building.


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