Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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.

It took me far, far longer than I wished to get through this book. Not because it was bad, but because I wasn’t able to spend enough time in the car listening to it! I read it as an audio book from Audible. It was read by Jim Dale, who apparently read the American version of the Harry Potter audiobooks. I could definitely see him doing that job quite well, but in my opinion, there’s just no replacing Stephen Fry.

This is a bit of a weird book. It’s jumpy and has a ton of different character points of view, which sometimes made it difficult to keep up. The prose is so descriptive that it’s like you’re there- a bit of a danger when you’re driving at 80km/h down a busy road, dreaming about a circus! I can really see why it has such mixed reviews, though I’ve fallen on the love side of the fence.

I sometimes had to wonder whether the description cleverly hid a lack of actual plot. Nothing much happened for a fair chunk of the book. Lots happened at the beginning and the end, but not a huge amount for the middle chunk. It got very slow, but the descriptions kind of kept it clinging on.

I know people have their personal preferences about how much description they like in a book. Having been brought up by vision impaired parents, I find I can really appreciate lots of description. I’ve even downloaded this book for my mum, who will simply adore how much of the circus is described to her. I think this book, however, was teetering on the edge of going overboard. It was being descriptive for the sake of it, rather than using it to push the plot along. I think a good edit would have solved that problem, though perhaps this is really what Morgenstern intended.

I wish I’d read it in print- it’s likely I will do so in the future. Reading it as an audiobook, I found it hard to keep up with the dates, so I was struggling to understand exactly where events fell in the scheme of things. This wouldn’t have been such an issue if I was reading in print.

Now that I’ve dealt with that, can I just say how much I loved this book?

I loved Poppet and Widget. I absolutely loved theirs and Bailey’s storyline… it made me smile every time. I’d begin looking forward to their sections, getting excited when their time frame was announced. I love how they grew as characters and began to understand how and why the world around them worked, as well as how precarious it was.

I also loved the whole Celia and Marco thread. I know people have criticised it for being a case of insta-love… I can see where they’re coming from. I believe that there is something more going on there than just insta-love though… a deeper connection due to the game. The previous competitors felt it too. I do wish there was a bit more of the romance thing happening, as it could have helped keep the plot alive through the middle section. That being said, I did say “Awww!” out loud many times!

I really loved the mystery surrounding Tsukiko. She was such a great, enigmatic character. I love how true to form she stayed through the whole novel. Morgenstern didn’t skip a beat with her! She added such an element of calm alongside her mysterious edge, which is such a cool thing.

I was also pleased to see that there were many ethnic groups represented in the book. To me, that mean that magic, and the circus, is an international thing… a thing without borders, judgement, discrimination. Everyone was welcome as long as they could love it and believe in it. It’s nice to come across that in a book, especially one aimed at younger readers.

Celia herself was a character I really liked. I felt that she was relatable, but perhaps a wee bit too perfect. I liked how she was super strong, but had a vulnerable side. I loved that she wanted so deeply to break free from the shackles of her father and the challenge. She was very clever, very cunning and just an overall interesting person to follow around. She made the best magic! …sorry Marco.

The challenge itself could have been more of a… well… a challenge. I know people felt the same way and wanted more of a threat of danger there. I tend to agree. I did think that being kept in the dark was interesting, but I want to know why. I also want to be able to understand exactly why Hector and Alexander were so despicable, grooming young kids (hell, including Hector’s own daughter!) into a lifelong battle that would just end in tears. These two adult men didn’t even care, or stop to think how disgusting they were being! Why do that to a child? It could have had a Hunger Games-esque feeling, which I’m glad Morgenstern avoided, but a little more credible danger would have been preferable.

Overall, I did really enjoy this book. Yes, it has problems. It really isn’t a perfect book. For me, it was a really enjoyable book, and one that took me away from the things I’d been stressing about, even just while I was in the car. I needed a book like this at the time and it was perfect. It’s a slow book, but I really feel that it was worth sticking around. The circus is amazing and a character all its own, filled with secrets, lies, danger, love and magic. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it was perfect for me.

Now I just need a magic man to build me a book boat. *le sigh*

4/5 Stars

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12 thoughts on “Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

  1. I loved this book when I read it last year – my only gripe was the Celia / Marco relationship. Definitely one I plan to read again – glad you fell on the ‘love’ side of the fence!

    • Ooh yay, I’m glad you loved it too! What bothered you so much about them?
      I’m going to read this in print for sure, I feel like it’s one of those books in which you discover more things with every re-read. Thanks! Me too! It’s far nicer to love than hate the books =D

      • I think I found the romance between them a bit over-the-top, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book. My copy was from the library but I bought my own version as I liked it so much!

  2. Loving your review! I read this book a while ago and found it quite hard to put into words why it was awesome and why it sometimes failed to draw me in. You voiced a lot of my thoughts :). I think I just decided that it was part of the magic, all the descriptions. I quite liked the vagueness about the challenge and the lack of bloodshed, it made the story turn out quite differently from how I expected.

    And don’t worry, the frames and dates are still majorly confusing in print. The only advantage is that you can keep paging back :).

    • Thanks! =D
      I had trouble with figuring out how to word it al too! I actually waited two weeks to review, when I usually write my thoughts immediately. I’m so glad I’ve put stuff into words for you!
      I agree, the descriptions were magical. I just kind of felt they were masking some plot issues, but they were a really enjoyable mask regardless.
      Oh I’m glad about the lack of bloodshed- I just wish it was spelt out better. I would have hated more people to have died, it would have been a real dampener for me.
      Oh good! It’s definitely much harder to flick back in an audiobook, especially when you read and drive at the same time like I do!

  3. I loved the atmosphere of this book, but found the action to be a little slow. The imagery was gorgeous though. Also,I nominated you for the Versatile Bloggers Award last week (but I’m just now getting around to letting you know.) You can read the post here

    • It’s definitely slow, It either needed to be amped up or edited really well. The imagery was truly the best part.
      Aw thanks! I can’t remember if I’ve done it yet, but if I haven’t I’ll do it!

  4. Stephen Fry. Gosh. That man. Love that photo of him! What a dashing soul. I just want to hold him forever and buy him floral bowties.

    FABULOUS review. If I hadn’t read this already, I’d want to rush straight out and do so. I would even contemplate missing mealtimes. Poppet and Widget have my heart too.

    Also, if no boy will build you a book boat (which I’m sure they will!), I am up for the challenge.

    • He is an absolute legend, he should be made immortal. I don’t care what anybody says!
      Thank you!!! That means so much to me ❤ Missing mealtimes?! Now that is impressive!
      Awwwww that's the second most romantic thing ever said to me! You're on a roll tonight!

      • Yes! I want to start a campaign to make him Prime Minister. He would be almost universally loved.

        YOU MEAN SO MUCH TO ME. ❤ Yes, yes, I would totally do that! It's that achy breaky tartan heart, Bels – it has utterly consumed me! ❤

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