Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

From the Back Cover:

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 RĂªves, 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 as their masters intervene with dangerous consequences.

My Thoughts:

Unique, wondrous, ethereal, charming, imaginative, lyrical--these are the words that float through my mind as I sit down to write this review. And having said that, this book was nothing like I'd expected it to be! The premise is actually quite simple: two adversarial magicians have been staging competitions for their proteges for years, and they're at it again, only this time they've decided to create a public stage for their players to compete upon. With the help of an envelope-pushing theater producer, the Night Circus, or Le Cirque des Reves, is born. Shrouded in mystery and steeped in wonder and amazement, the circus is an instant success. The crowds can't get enough of it, over the years a whole new society of circus devotees emerges, and no one suspects that the entire production hinges on a magical challenge where defeat means death.

But the rules of the challenge are unknown to the players, and something their masters never envisioned comes to pass: Celia and Marco fall in love. As the challenge progresses, new tents appear in the circus, and each one becomes a tribute to their love for each other: a fantastical garden made of ice, a cloud maze, a wishing tree, a pool of tears...each more beautiful than the next, each one embued with all of the feeling and longing they have for each other, and for the circus itself. Yet underneath all of the wonderful magic in this story lies a heavy layer of sadness. As the circus entertains and inspires the masses, so it consumes those who comprise its heart, and those who exist on its fringe. When Celia and Marco finally learn the awful cost of their competition, the task becomes too much to bear, and they seek a way to outwit their masters with frightening consequences that imperil the existance of the circus and everyone in it.
Skimming through some of the posted reviews, I'm very surprised at the number of people who didn't enjoy this book as much as I did. I'm not saying that a couple of the complaints aren't valid--it's not a "fierce competition" as the description states, and it's not an exciting adventure, but it definitely has a plot, it's suspenseful and mysterious, and though Celia and Marco spend more time apart than together, it's very romantic and not at all hard to see how and why they feel the way they do toward each other. Some have complained that it's too wordy and overly descriptive, while I thought it was beautifully written and savored every word. And though Le Cirque des Reves was designed to be magnificent and awe-inspiring, I was struck by its underlying subtlety and grace.

I based my rating of this book on the way it made me feel. I've never read a book quite like this before. I read my share of fantasy, but I can't recall ever before wishing so strongly that a fictional setting actually existed, or being so enchanted by it as I was reading. This novel is truly a treat for the senses, a destination for the imagination, and a delight for a hopeless romantic like me. I wasn't ready for it to end. In fact, when I turned the last page, I shed a tear because it was over. This is a book that I imagine will be subtlely different every time I read it, and one that I think can be best enjoyed when the reader drops all expectations before opening the cover, prepares to read with all of the senses engaged, and sits back and lets the magical ambiance of the story take over.

My Rating:  5 Stars out of 5

*Please Note: This review references an advance copy received through the Amazon Vine program, and therefore the final published copy may differ. Though I received this book from the publisher, these are my honest and unbiased thoughts, and I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.


  1. A 5. You always surprise me with the books I would just walk away from at once :=)

  2. I don't think this is a book for me, but I love it when books make you wish the settings were real. That says a lot about the author's writing talent.

  3. Wow this book sounds highly unusual! I am intrigued.

  4. When I first saw this book immediately I thought it was not for me. After reading some of the reviews I am rethinking that. It sounds very unusual and it might be a great escape. I think I may give it a try.

  5. This one sounds really good! The cover is a bit creepy. Great post! I'll have to check this one out.

  6. Thanks for the review. I have the beautiful hardcover edition of The Night Circus in my TBR pile. I hope to read it soon, after I catch up on some more review titles.


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