Book Review: The Night Circus

Have you ever felt like you were suddenly left homeless after finishing a book? Like you really lived in the setting and experienced it, only to have that home and the promise of future experiences snatched away by The End?

When I finished Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, I felt like Bailey looking out over the hill to see Le Cirque des Rêves only to find an empty field.

Books like The Night Circus remind me that words are truly magical. They have the ability to transport the reader and convince her that the impossible is possible.

The Story

At Le Cirque des Rêves, a haunting and fantastic circus that arrives as suddenly as it disappears, visitors gain access to the inexplicable and breathtaking wonders housed within each black and white tent. But they are not privy to the mechanics behind each tent…the workings of magicians Celia and Marco. And they do not know that the circus is actually a battleground where the pair must participate in a competition they’ve been trained for since childhood. As Celia and Marco fall in love, the wonders within the circus increase, as do the stakes.

The Review

This book was almost everything I’d hoped to find sandwiched between the covers of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (which I still haven’t convinced myself to finish). Magic, love, interesting settings and characters…basically, “the works” for a lover of fantasy and magic. I really cared about the fate of Le Cirque des Rêves and its performers. I turned each page to visit the circus and to learn more about those involved. There’s both poetry and clarity to Morgenstern’s descriptions of the circus, and you can’t help but feel like you’re there, experiencing it for yourself.

I enjoyed the pace of the novel, with its short chapters and juicy little tidbits expanding upon the mood and various tents in Le Cirque des Rêves. It was a pretty quick read, and I didn’t feel like the story dragged.

Morgenstern’s use of magic was unique. I expected Harry Potter style battles with wands drawn and spells shouted, but got something refreshing and unexpected instead.

The characters were a bit iffy. This was one of those rare stories where I found myself more interested in the supporting characters (namely, Poppet and Widget) than the main characters. Celia and Marco were interesting at times, but I didn’t find myself truly invested in their love story. They lacked the depth I need from main characters. I was more concerned about the fate of the circus, Poppet, Widget and Bailey. Also, Prospero seemed like a bit of an afterthought by the end (maybe to match his physical state).

As for the rest of the conclusion, it didn’t give me an “Aha!” moment–I wouldn’t call it a strong finish–but I was satisfied and it didn’t change my mind about the novel as a whole.

The Night Circus is a lovely fairy tale that offers its reader a brief life in an unforgettable circus. Maybe I’m just a sucker for a good circus story; this book was certainly crafted for rêveurs. If you’re instead seeking a love story for the ages or an impeccable plot, this book might not be your cup o’ tea.

What I Learned

I predict I’ll often turn to this book when I need good examples of descriptive voice, especially when describing settings. For me, The Night Circus solidified the concept of writing to provide an experience. Morgenstern’s prose took all five of my senses on a wild ride.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Night Circus

  1. Excellent review. I agree about the strong sensory element of this book, down to the black & white page design of the hardcover.
    It’s not often that I find myself using my sense of smell while reading, but The Night Circus brought up smells, tastes, sights and sounds.
    So impressive, especially for a debut.

    • The cover design is gorgeous.

      Sudden onsets of hunger were the only drawbacks to actually being able to smell the aromas she described. 🙂

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