The Night Circus ~ Erin Morgenstern

  • Title: The Night Circus
  • Author: Erin Morgenstern
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Emma, Guest Reviewer
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The black sign, painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, reads:

Opens at Nightfall

Closes at Dawn

As the sun disappears beyond the horizon, all over the tents small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears.

Le Cirque des R�ves

The Circus of Dreams.

Now the circus is open.

Now you may enter.

Review:  So, this is a tough one. I still can’t make up my mind about this book. I’m hovering between 3 and 4 stars. I don’t want to give away any spoilers because it really would spoil the effect of the book for those that want to read it. So I’ll give you a potted overview.

The story is about a magical competition between Celia and Marco, instigated by her father and his mentor when they were children. Celia knows very little about the competition, not even who her opponent is, while Marco knows much more. The location for the contest is Le Cirque des Reves. They do battle by creating more and more elaborate experiences (tents) within the circus, neither knowing how the contest will be won, but knowing there can be only one winner. Of course, there is the inevitable love story that ensues, though for a large part of the book the two protagonists are kept apart.

What was wonderful about this book was Morgenstern’s beautiful, often elaborate prose and intricate descriptions. The tents, and what happened within them, really came to life with her detailed atmosphere. You felt as though you were really there and these magical experiences could actually be real because of the dexterity of the author. One of my favourite things in the circus was Herr Theissen’s clock. What an extraordinary imagination Morgenstern has!

However, I also feel as though this was the book’s weakest point as well. The circus was described in every detail from the clothes to the food at the Midnight Dinners and the smells of the circus, and the story was told from so many points of view and places in time, I found it awkward to really develop any attachments to the characters. I wasn’t swept away with the story, but rather with the imagery.

Perhaps this was the author’s intent. The book actually felt like someone’s dream. One of those rare dreams that we all occasionally have that feels so real that when we wake up we feel disappointed because it didn’t actually happen. The Night Circus was less of a story and more of an experience.

If Morgenstern could shape her characters as satisfyingly as she shapes the world she puts them in, I think she could be a prodigious talent. For a debut novel I was very impressed and I will certainly be interested to see what else she writes. It’s not going to be one of my favourite books but all told, I think the book deserves 4 stars for the sheer commitment and bravery Morgenstern displays in not leaving any descriptive stone unturned. Not many books are written in this fashion, and I admire her for trying something unusual. How successfully she achieves it is up to you.

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2 thoughts on “The Night Circus ~ Erin Morgenstern

  1. This was an amazing book. The love story and all the magic was amazing and mystical. And the way the circus is described and its followers. It completely reminded me of a Grateful Dead experience. I wasn’t fully satisfied either, but the ending needed more bang to get the full five stars. I do think this is a close to a must read, if nothing else for the style. Erin is one of the coolest cats any cat lady ever let in.

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