Review: The Night Circus

The Night Circus

Warning: This review contains possible spoilers.

This morning I finally finished reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Since closing the book in my Kobo reader, I haven’t really been able to stop thinking about it.

From the publisher:

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.

Before buying this book, I read reviews claiming Morgenstern’s book to be the next Harry Potter: taking up the Fantasy genre mantle that Harry Potter left behind. I have to admit, with such heavy expectations, I was hesitant to read it for fear of disappointment. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling is one of my favourites and I am hard-pressed to believe something else so great could come along so readily. Thus, The Night Circus stood on my Kobo shelf for four months before I decided to finally open it.

Morgenstern does a great job describing the circus. I could easily imagine the black and white striped tents which are deceptively larger inside than they appear. I could almost smell the caramel and hot chocolate. The reveurs with the red scarves so bright against their black & white attire. I could almost believe the circus was real, much like how I could also believe Hogwarts was real. And I wanted to visit, or felt like I had visited it but a long time ago that it’s just a faint memory.

The book starts off a bit slow and I had trouble caring for the main characters, Celia & Marco. In particular Marco who seemed cold, arrogant and distant. It’s not until halfway when Celia  & Marco discover each other as their respective opponents does the book pick up steam. Suddenly, the rivalry holds more weight as more lives are involved and thus, more consequences.

Morgenstern creates full characters out of Celia and Marco, but at times, I could only see them as characters written in a book rather than living, breathing souls. Their courtship and eventual relationship don’t feel as real or profound to me as I would have liked. Thus, the climax wasn’t as monumental and all-consuming to me. I didn’t care whether or not they ended up together or were separated forever. Instead I found myself more drawn to Bailey’s parallel story. His life, his friendship with Poppet and Widget and what the circus meant to him.

Nevertheless, by the end of the book, I wanted to keep reading more, even though the ending was perfect. I still want to know more about what happened to each character and how they and the circus lived on. I want more circus tales, about other people we didn’t meet or only briefly met. I want to read more of Morgenstern’s book, if only The Night Circus wasn’t her first book.

I’d still definitely recommend this book, especially since I want to discuss it with someone and flesh out everything I’ve been thinking.

Have you read The Night Circus? If so, what did you think about it? Impressed? Less than?

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