Friday, October 28, 2011

REVIEW: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Arriving out of nowhere in the dead of night, les cirque des reves (circus of dreams) is a wonder to behold.  With endless tents featuring mind boggling delights, the circus does truly seem as if it is out of a dream.  The circus serves as more than just an entertainment though.  It is the chosen battle ground for dueling magicians Celia and Marco, raised from childhood for just this purpose.  Schooled by their mentors, Celia and Marco are only told they are playing a game with their magical abilities.  They are given no rules, no purpose to the game, no indication who their opponent is and no clue as to how the challenge actually ends.  But it must end-and there can be only one winner.  There is one thing that the two gentleman who taught Celia and Marco didn't count on when they entered them into the game-that they would fall madly in love.

I wasn't quite sure whether this was the book for me but after seeing a few favorable reviews on it, I decided to give it a go and see what the fuss was all about.  Although slow to get going (the story didn't really pick up until the first 80 pages or so) Celia and Marco's alternating story lines slowly pulled me in.  Both spend years honing their abilities in preparation for this mysterious competition and both move steadily to what will be their assigned roles in the competition-Marco staying in London as an assistant for the circus and Celia travelling with it as an illusionist.  The competition begins as Celia and Marco seek to out do each other by adding additional elements to the circus.  When they meet sparks fly but how can they be together if they are competitors, especially after the true intent of the circus is revealed?

Reading about Les Cirque Des Rives in this book left me with the same feeling I had when seeing Mr. Wonka's chocolate factory come to life-it really is magical.  Morgenstern is definitely not lacking in the imagination department.  I found myself thinking I wish I could see this stuff for real every time a new circus attraction was revealed. The next best thing was conjuring what it would look like in my head which was easy to do given the author's wonderfully detailed descriptions.  I also liked all of the characters involved as a bit of mystery surrounded each of them.  With Isobelle the fortune teller, twins Widget and Poppet, and Tsukiko the contortionist to name a few, I kind of wish there was a separate book to follow each of their stories.  I did find the competition between Marco and Celia being described as a duel to be misleading.  Normally when you think of dueling magicians it is the wand wielding spell casting magical battle that comes to mind.  This is more of a game/competition/exhibition then it is a duel.

The writing style is wonderful and the chapters are short so the point of view switches often. The time period does as well which left me a little lost at times, particularly the parts with the character Bailey who becomes an integral part of the story later on.  I knew he had to be important somehow but I would be totally engrossed in the Marco/Celia narratives and then it would switch to 1902 with Bailey and until all the narratives converged it pulled me out of the story a bit each time it happened.

I liked the development of the Marco and Celia's romance but I was kind of annoyed by it as well.  Liked because it was not overdone or flowery at all.  Annoyed because it was Edward and Bella-esque in it's "we meet and....Boom! Electricity! Sparks! We're in love!"  way that always irks me a bit. Why are they in love?  Because he's hot and she's pretty and they can both do magic?  What else drew these two together?  I always hate when two characters meet and it's insta-love for no discernible reason.  I like to see when they learn each others personalities and are slowly drawn together.  Maybe this is why I have so much trouble with the romance angle in books.

I thought the author did a great job of pulling everything together at the end and despite my misgivings about the romance I really enjoyed the end of this book.  I honestly don't think I've read book so unique and inventive in a really long time.  Often times when a book gets so much attention I'll give in to see what the fuss was about and end up thinking it was ok but wondering what the big deal was.  I definitely didn't feel that way here.  This book was worth the read even with the minor issues I had with it and I will be reading more by this author in the future.

I borrowed this from the library


  1. I'm waiting for this one from the library. I have that nervous feeling of can-it-possibly-live-up-to-all-the-hype, but so far all the reviews seem to be saying yes, it does. I think I'm going to have to stop reading reviews though so I don't get saturated before I get to the actual book! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  2. This is a book I'm interested in, because I hear about it so much! Like you, I'm not sure it's my type of book, but then you never know until you read. I have a sample on my Kindle and will check it out.

  3. I probably shouldn't have read a review of this as I'm only part of the way through this, haven't got onto the romance part yet. When I unpacked this book at work (bookshop) it was like it jumped up, grabbed me by the collar and yelled "BUY ME! READ ME! LOVE ME!" the coverlust was so strong, and I'm really enjoying it so far, but for some reason I put it down a couple of weeks ago and read something else, and have only just come back to it.

    Great review.

  4. Great review, Holly. I definitely agree about the romance aspect not being well enough developed.

    PS - I'm glad I'm not the only one to think this novel isn't five-star worthy. Still, like you, I'm glad I read it and will definitely read the author's next book.

  5. Thanks for the review. I don't think I would have kept going after the first 50 pages if I wasn't "hooked"

  6. I loved this book. Whimsical, happy, and at times sad, I fell in love with the whole idea of the night circus. I wish it was real so I could spend an evening strolling thru the many tents being amazed and enthralled. One of those books you read very fast as it draws you in, then read slow as it nears the end because you don't want it to be over. Hauntingly beautiful.
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