Monday, June 3, 2013

The Night Circus: A Review

The Night Circus
Written by: Erin Morgenstern
Softcover: 512 pages
Publisher: Anchor
Language: English
July 2012, $14.99
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Romance

In this mesmerizing debut, a competition between two magicians becomes a star-crossed love story.

The circus arrives at night, without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within nocturnal black and white striped tents awaits a unique experience, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stand awestruck as a tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and gaze in wonderment at an illusionist performing impossible feats of magic.

Welcome to Le Cirque des RĂªves. Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is underway - a contest between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in "a game," in which each must use their powers of illusion to best the other. Unbeknownst to them, this game is a duel to the death, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.


There is something about the circus that just fills you with wonder. You see things that you wouldn’t normally see, clowns, acrobats, elephants. The circus reminds us to believe in magic and to be filled with the impossible and the fantastic. While Night Circus wasn’t really Young Adult, our group decided to stray a bit and pick it up. So glad we did.

Wow. Take me to the circus. Take me to the Night Circus. It is here that everything is in black and white and understandably so. It is here where you are presented with good and evil, love and loss, the past and the future, dreams and the fantastic, magic and the mundane and so much more. The tents are many and the magic within differs from an ice garden to a labyrinth, a tent where jars hold memories and all you need to do is pop the cork and fall into the smells, sights and sensations. This is the circus where magic is real but you dismiss it as sleight of hand or maybe you do begin to believe in it all as you once did when you were a child and did not have mortgages, broken hearts and regrets. It is a place where you get lost and find yourself all over again, where jackets become ravens, and the Pool of Tears reminds you of so much.

Things I loved: There are few books out there that I want to read aloud due to the prose. This was one of them. Beyond the prose, the descriptions are magical. I can see the circus perfectly, the starkness of the colors, the vividness of the performers...and it is all quite beautiful. Also, this is one you can discuss. Not just the plot or the various tents you would like to go to, or our two young lovers, but the various symbols throughout.

Celia and Marco are pawns of their parents, raised to be combatants in a game they know nothing about and for a prize they know nothing of. Even the challenge is a mystery until it is too late and their lives are forever intertwined. Their moves on the battlefield take place at the circus, but what was meant to be a war between them becomes a love letter. Each new tent becomes a message, an endearment for something they feel they can never have with one another...a love for the ages.

Some of my favorite scenes were Celia’s color changing dress, Celia’s powers, pretty much the entirety of the circus including the carousel where the animals breathe, and a fire that never goes out. The Wishing Tree and the Cloud Maze made me smile as well. Seriously why isn’t this a real circus.

Things I didn’t love so much: The progression of time was a bit confusing. The jumps in time even more so especially when you also had a change of narration from first to second and then back again. For me it took me out of the story when it came to Celia and Marco, especially when I became immersed when it came to the circus itself.

I will say that this is a book that relies more on beautiful descriptions and really making the circus a character, but at the expense of others. This is frustrating especially when I want to like Celia and Marco. I really wanted to see them fall in love, to rebel against it since they were supposed to be rivals...essentially the whole star-crossed lovers schtick. Instead I was told that they were in love but there was not very much evidence to back that up. Now there are some great scenes such as the touch of one another’s skin makes them gasp and a kiss can make the world tremble, but hard to believe, as I said, when there is nothing to really prove this depth of love. I wanted to believe in their love, but it fell flat.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. This wasn’t the grand love story that you think you will be reading but it is a love story of a different sort. At times I neither liked nor rooted for Celia to have a happy ending. I also didn’t get the Prestige sort of ‘dueling magicians’ that I was expecting. But expectations aside, I did get a wonderful novel that tugged at my heart strings and made my imagination soar. It was also a novel that stuck with me.

Part of: Standalone

Also Recommended: For more circus mayhem try Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, and If I Ran the Circus by Dr Seuss.

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

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