While a favourite for some, Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel The Night Circus was simply too strange and long-winded for me. Still a great story brimming with beautiful and complex characters, the manner in which this book was written unfortunately made it a struggle to read.
This review may contain mild spoilers for this book (What I consider spoilers might not be what you consider spoilers but I thought that I’d put it out there just in case). READERS YE BE WARNED!
I became super curious about this book when the lovely people I know over on bookstagram wouldn’t shut up about it. Naturally, I grabbed a copy and started reading only to discover that The Night Circus may just be the trippiest book I have ever read! While the story and writing is properly unique, it just didn’t really click with me the way it did with some people.
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.
This book was pretty magical but I wouldn’t expect anything less since the blurb explicitly states that our two darling love interests are both magicians. If you are like me and don’t particularly like slow-burn books then this isn’t the book for you. Using the word “duel” in the blurb is rather deceptive as the “duelling” that goes on is rather abstract and spans years. I have never read a book that made be feel sleepy and fuzzy but now I can say that I have (It honestly felt like I had been given a sedative each time I opened it). In saying that however, after you get used to the pace, the ending is a bit of a surprise. Really, it just creeps up and punches you in the face. I would have liked it if some of the rather large and gaping plot holes had been filled in but I guess I’ll have to wonder what the whole point of the game their masters were playing was for the rest of my life. With this book, I think that the story could have worked just as well written with a faster pace, less plot holes, and less of the switching between points of view (I’ll get to that again later).
One of my absolute favourite bits about The Night Circus was that, even if the number of POV characters irritated me in the extreme, they also proved invaluable in showing how the circus itself influenced people in both a positive and negative capacity. Many of the people employed to make the circus come to life are shown as happy and excited at first but after a time their passion for the carnival becomes their downfall. The romance between the main characters was mostly unconventional as they appear to have started falling in love before they actually met one another. This was extremely frustrating but still something that I thought was beautiful and quite sweet. The whole idea of the circus itself was an awesome one. If you show me someone who wouldn’t want to go there then I will show you a liar. It might just be that I really like carnivals or circuses or show-type events but I think that if this circus was real it might just rival Cirque du Soliel for sheer amazingness (is that even a word?).
Character Appreciation/Disdain (Sometimes a rant but what can you do?)
Celia and Marco: (TBH I read this book at the beginning of the year and can’t remember much about the characters but that might also be because I kept putting the book down to listen to trap music just to wake myself up) Celia and Marco are such interesting characters and the way they interact with one another is awesome. Their relationship has chemistry and they are both so curious about the other that you can’t help but smile when they are together in a scene.
Bailey: Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what the whole point of his character was other than to be there so that the ending could have some basis.
The writing in this book is phenomenally gorgeous! It’s highly descriptive and lush and if you’ve read any of my other reviews you will know that I love love LOVE it when novels are super immersive. The main problem that I had with this book was that it had so many points of view. There was Celia Bowen, and Marco Alisdair, and Bailey, and Poppet or Widget, and Herr Friedrick Thiessen, and Chandresh Christophe Lefevre and probably more that I have forgotten. All the switching between points of view definitely served a purpose but STREUTH! was it annoying.
By all accounts this is definitely a beautiful and unique story but written as it is, with the multiple points of views and other bits and bobs that it has, it just drove me up the wall. I definitely think that it could have been told in a more straightforward manner and still been a phenomenally good book, but I suppose the strange manner in which it is told is part of the appeal. If you like slow burn books or books that are just weird you could probably give this a go but, sadly, I for one probably won’t be reading it again.