Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

10860047Title: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Format/Length: Paperback/387 Pages

Publisher/Date Published: Harvill Secker/2011

Category/Genre: Young Adult/Magical Realism

Source: Library

Description: 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. 

The Night Circus: 3/5 stars —

★★★☆☆

I was torn between loving this novel — oh, the prose was amazing, lyrical and creative, and I loved the surrealism of the storyline — and not even bothering to continue reading this at some points. It’s hard to describe why I was so torn with this novel, but I will do my best to explain in my review. First, I’ll start with the positives, and why I decided to give this novel three of five stars.

Ultimately, I liked this novel. There were two main reason why I decided to stick with this one to the end. The concept of the story, and the prose.

The prose, let me just say, was beautiful. It’s the sort of writing I read and feel a slight twinge of jealousy because I wished I could write as good as that. I even dedicated a whole Thursday Quotables post to this novel because I felt like I had to showcase some of the prose I am talking about. It was lyrical, smooth and flowing; the sort of writing that kept me reading when I considered just giving up with this novel. Erin Morgenstern is a very talented writer — and I would without a doubt read another novel of hers if she published it.

Present tense writing, in my opinion, can be very hit or miss. Some writers master it, others write it in a fashion that makes it very draining to read. Ordinarily I would say that using present tense and third person writing would be something to avoid . . . but this author managed it very, very well. I also enjoyed reading the story from the different point of views; that’s my favourite thing about third person point of views, the reader is able to see the story through different eyes, and it’s remarkable how one’s opinion can effect a whole story.

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Dude, how awesome is this gif!?

Now let’s talk about the other aspect of this novel I liked. The concept, or, the idea of the story. There were a few key words/phrases that leapt out to me when I read the blurb, and ultimately, made me want to read it: “The circus arrives without warning”, “a duel between two young magicians”, “Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love”, and so on. The description is fantastically written, and I found that I was entranced by the beginning pages; the concept that was put forward to be as a reader was surreal and amazing and intriguing — and I couldn’t wait to find out more about the story.

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And hence, we lead into the negatives that I found while reading this.

For most of the novel, nothing much happened. I felt like for most of the novel I was waiting, waiting, waiting for something to happen — and it wasn’t until near the end that things began to pick up again . . . but by the time I had reached the part of the novel I kind of just wanted it to be over. The duel between Marco and Celia was not at all was I had been expecting. It was slow and gradual, and well, boring. I wanted to be sucked into the novel like I had been reading the first couple of pages, but after that it fell flat, levelling out with description and dialogue between characters I didn’t care as much for. The description also promises a romance — and yes, it was there, but I didn’t feel it.

I want to be rooting to the love interests to get together, but I wasn’t.

I was mainly just hoping that one of them would finish the other off. Because, you know, it was a duel.

Their romance was boring and took a long time to get properly started — which is fair enough, even realistic in some respects — but by the time the romance had developed properly, I had already lost interest in their characters. This leads me to another negative points.

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For me, the characters blended together. Marco and Isobel and Celia were the dullest characters I’ve read about in quite some time. (For a start, let’s talk about the unrealistic-ness of Marco and Isobel’s relationship. They kissed, like, two seconds after knowing each other. Riiiiiight. Because that’s so realistic.) Then there were quite a few of background characters — Penelope, Winston, Prospero the Enchanter, Mr. A.H—, Bailey, and probably some others who I am now forgetting. It wasn’t that these characters were useless (Bailey was an especially important part of the story) it is just that they were developed enough for me to “click” with them, or for me to relate to them enough.

Overall thoughts: Wonderful writing, great concept, but boring execution and forgettable characters.

Have you read The Night Circus? What did you think of it? Let me know!

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