Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Spoiler Free)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Read: August 22 – August 25, 2012
Other Information: Library book, hardcover, 387 pages, personal read

Book Blurb: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, 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. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

My Opinion: The Night Circus is, hands down, one of the most beautifully written books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. The language is superb. It is divine. It is one of only two books I can think of that I have actually savored. (The other is The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield)

Atmosphere is most definitely Erin Morgenstern’s strong point. Every single page is brimming with rich prose that paints a vivid picture of the circus and its inhabitants. And the mystery. There is a mysterious dreamlike quality to the book that at time came across as just plain vagueness, but in the end played out well.

I didn’t expect the magic aspect of it, and I didn’t expect the romance twist to it either. Actually, I didn’t really know what to expect when it came right down to it, but I was very pleasantly surprised.

The book features an ensemble cast, and we never really find ourselves drawn in to any one character. I didn’t feel like any of them really stuck out as outstanding characters, but then this isn’t really a character-driven novel. That isn’t to say the characters are not likeable or they are poorly written, I just felt they were not the focus of The Night Circus, and that is completely OK.

Plot-wise, it is slow. The plot unfolds, as I stated above, at a very dreamlike pace. There are only a few moments where there is any real sense of urgency, and those are mostly near the end. Honestly, I was so entranced by the prose that I only noticed the slow plot once or twice in my reading. They were short-lived notices before I was distracted by the shiny prose again. Some of the plot devices seemed a little sloppy to me. There wasn’t much explanation into the workings of the magic used, it was more just “Look, magic!”.

Bottom Line: Absolutely gorgeous prose. Slower paced story, but still a lovely read.

I leave you with a quote. A book has to really resonate with me for me to quote it, so this should speak pretty highly of it.

“It is important,” the man in the grey suit interrupts. “Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that.” He takes another sip of his wine. “There are many kinds of magic, after all.”


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