Monday, July 10, 2017

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: September 13, 2011
Format: Hardback

Page Count: 400


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, 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 Rêves.

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.

Both playful and seductive,
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern's spell-casting debut, is a mesmerizing love story for the ages. (taken from

“Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon.. is not the dragon the hero of his own story?” 

This book is many things: beautiful, enchanting, tragic, and perhaps most predominantly, confusing. I picked it up on a whim and was immediately swept into a complicated world where things are not always as they appear. I'd heard wonderful things about this one, and I was really hoping that it would be the circus novel I've always dreamt of reading. Caraval really didn't impress me, so I was hoping this one might satisfy my literary circus desires.

The biggest thing I'll remember about this book in months to come is how lost I was at points. I haven't seen a lot of people complain about this in their reviews, so maybe I'm just dumb, but I seriously had such trouble following certain parts of the story. There are several different characters that Morgenstern follows, and we switch back and forth between them AND between time. The story takes place over the course of more than thirteen years, which is very unusual. Therefore, the story doesn't really progress in an orderly fashion. I can see how this adds to the dreamlike quality of Morgenstern's tale, and I grant that it does its job of creating a specific atmosphere, but at times I just wanted to throw the book down and give up on keeping track of what was going on.

The descriptions of the circus were certainly enticing. It's the circus we readers have always dreamed of visiting, complete with caramel apples and magical displays of unbelievable feats. I gobbled up the imagery and basically kept reading purely because I loved the world Morgenstern created.

If you're here for forbidden romance, then you'll probably adore the heartbreak Morgenstern sets up for her readers. The tale is truly tragic, and the romance was mostly what kept me reading when I started to lose focus.

Overall, I enjoyed The Night Circus, but it wasn't an easy read for me. I kept having to push myself to finish it and to keep track of the tangled (and sometimes vague) plot. However, I would still recommend this one to lovers of fantastical stories, bewildering qualities and all.

Me half of the time while I was reading this book. The other half I was in love.