The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Fantasy. 2012. 528 pages)
The circus is open only at night. It arrives without warning and is gone again just as quickly. It is a circus of dreams, of fantasies beyond imagining. To its spellbound visitors, the Night Circus seems magical. This is because it is. Literally.
Morgenstern’s debut novel (and may I just pause here and let my mind boggle at the fact that such a complexly interwoven, beautifully written book is a freshman effort) tells the story of two young magicians locked in a battle of illusions. The Night Circus is their stage and the stakes are higher than either of them realize or can imagine. Beyond this, though, the book tells the story of the circus itself — of the performers who call it home, the people who created it, and the visitors who love it. This tale is whole, round, and complete.
We meet the protagonists, Celia and Marco, in their childhood, when they are apprenticed to two of the world’s most powerful and jaded magicians. We see their training at the hands of their respective masters, cold and calculating, and are given glimpses of the incredible circus they will help create. The story is revealed not linearly, but in swoops and arcs that circle back endless on one another. The opening chapters of the book are instantly compelling — Morgenstern has a true gift for painting pictures with words and the world she builds is one the reader (or at least this reader) will find themselves almost desperate to spend time in.
Then, finally, we watch as the Night Circus itself takes shape. Celia and Marco — still strangers to one another — create illusions within the circus. Each illusion is an entry in their decades-long competition. The things they create are fantastic. Breathtaking. Heartbreaking. And soon they become love letters between the two young magicians.
As the stakes in their contest are gradually revealed — and the consequences to everyone involved in the Night Circus itself are unveiled — Celia and Marco search for a way to escape the cruel destiny their masters have planned for them. I will not spoil things by revealing whether they succeed or fail. I will merely say that the denouement is well worth waiting for.
The Night Circus not only tells a beautiful tale — at once sad and joyous — it also tells it with language as gorgeous as it is compelling. Erin Morgenstern’s novel is not only about magic, it is magic.
6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Night Circus”
I enjoyed reading your review, though I personally disliked this novel (I reviewed it on my blog on December 17, 2012). It’s an “atmosphere” book with beautiful description, but a very weak plot.
Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts! I’ll definitely check out your review and see what you had to say about it. I agree its very atmospheric, but I enjoyed the plot — I just thought it was slow to get started.
You are definitely not alone with that opinion on the book. My view is the minority. For me, the worst part came at 54% of the way through (according to my Kindle) when the two main characters admitted there was no purpose behind the battle. The whole story felt contrived. Also, I thought Marco was creepy and Celia was dull. Just not my cup of tea!
I also loved this book. I think it’s a great study in effective description!
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I really enjoyed your review. My friends told me I HAD to read this one and I just finished this morning. It took me almost 3 weeks to read which is UNHEARD OF for me. I’m not sure why though. When I was reading, I was really into it, but then I would set it down for days at a time. I think it definitely sped up toward the end. I really love what you say about it though, it reminds me of all the good parts that I may have overlooked.