Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern cover

The Night Circus
by Erin Morganstern
Goodreads | Amazon
Series: nope
Published: May 24th, 2012
Rating: Unique and beautiful

“Only the ship is made of books, its sails thousands of overlapping pages, and the sea it floats upon is dark black ink.” 

I have been meaning to read this book forever.  I think that everyone who has read it has loved it.  I mentioned it in my list of books that I am going to get to and everyone who read it was screaming at me to read it.  The culmination was a good friend of mine texting me last week basically throwing the book at my head and telling me to read it.  I listen to my librarian friends… Having finally read it I realize that The Night Circus is one of those books that I am going to wish I could read again for the first time.

The Night Circus is a book about Celia Bowen and  Marco Alisdair who have been brought up to complete in an undefined contest of magic in the shape of a circus.  The book shifts back and forth through time and interweaves their early years, the creation of the Night Circus, as well as a young boy twenty-five years later. But really it is about the Night Circus.

I found this to be a unique book.  I cannot think of another book that has the same type of mood or writing.  There were elements of romance, historical fiction, magical realism, fantasy, and even gothic horror but I don’t think that The Night Circus can be pigeonholed into any one genre. It is a little like reading a dream.

High five for the writing.  It was stylized and period in the best possible way.  There was a slight formality and distance to it.  The descriptive writing was beautiful, which is fortunate because there was both a lot of it and that description was incredibly important to the story. The sheer amount of imagery in this book is breathtaking.  The incredible clock, the black and white circus, Marco’s bowler hat, the twin’s red hair, it all works together to form a novel that you can almost see in moving pictures.

There were a couple of things that I thought could have been better.  The romance took too long to develop for my taste.  I thought that Celia was Isobel for a couple of chapters so I had already primed myself for the central romance way ahead of time.  I could have done without Isobel’s character as well.  Whatever she brought to the story could have been taken over by other character and then things wouldn’t have gotten so muddled.  I also would have liked more payoff of the emotional beats of the story at the end.  But that might just be a personal preference thing.  I like loose ends properly tied off.

One detail that I really liked was the way that every once in awhile the book switched to second person present as if you were a character walking around the circus.  I found the device very effective in keeping the mood of the book as well as maintaining the mystery.  Actually, "mystery" might not be the best word for it.  Mystery implies a crime or something like that.  In The Night Circus, the reader is put in the same position as the main characters.  What exactly is going on?  How exactly do all of these characters fit together?  It does mess with your head a little.

This book has been pretty well hyped and still managed to live up to it.  It was a lovely, if slightly creepy, read. It is not a fast paced book and there is very little action in it.  It that bothers you when reading then I would skip this one.  If you enjoy something a little different, beautiful writing and imagery and just a little romance then go ahead and give this a read.  

From Goodreads:
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.