REVIEW: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, Genre: Fiction/ Fantasy, Pages: 528, Level: Intermediate

Book Description from Barnes & Noble:

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.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.”

Two magicians are in constant competition regarding their techniques. They each choose a competitor, set the arena, train their competitors and then set them out in the arena until only one is left standing. This competition’s arena is The Night Circus, which is filled with out of the ordinary attractions. Many attractions are enhanced by magic but sell themselves as merely illusions.

Surely such a competition would only last one night, thus making a novel unnecessary. Well, there is a little more to the story than that. The competitors do not know the rules of the competition and sometimes it is many years before they even know who their competitor is. In addition, they are physically bound so that an emotional need for each other eventually develops.

And then there is the circus.

Chapters are told from different points of view in different time periods. The circus is described as dreamlike and maybe that is why the chapters jump between characters and time periods. This usually doesn’t bother me, but at first I had a hard time getting into the story. The middle is phenomenal. Towards the end, the different chapters are closer and closer in time with the effect of an impending crescendo. However, it felt as if the story should have ended about 50 pages sooner. In addition, I was not impressed with the culminating scene.

If you pay close attention and think it out, you can figure out how this story will end while not knowing the exact details. I guess I was just not impressed with the execution.

There is no doubt that Morgenstern is an excellent writer. The writing reflects the tone of the story. At the beginning, there is a lot of jumping around and some confusion, which is exactly what a lot of the characters feel about the circus because it is so secretive. The pace is much faster and the reading more intoxicating during the middle as the protagonists’ relationship intensifies. And since I don’t want to give away the ending, let’s just say that it seemed to me that the writing seemed to match what was going on in the story as it had during the other sections. I may be imagining all that, but looking back on the book, that is what occurred to me.

I don’t really know how to recommend this or to whom. I went back and forth between giving it three or four stars and decided to give it four because three and a half is not an option and three just didn’t seem to do it justice. Maybe I am over thinking it. While it is not a book I am likely to pick up again, although it is the type of book that may get better with each subsequent reading, I am glad I read it.

Reviewed by Christina

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