The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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.
Stars: 5.0 out of 5.0
Gut Feeling: 1.0
First off, I just want to say that this is one of the most beautifully written books that I have ever read. The language is positively exquisite without becoming flamboyantly verbose (unlike this sentence). Morgenstern studied studio art and her aptitude for visual artistry certainly bleeds through her writing. At any point during the book, I could close my eyes and picture exactly what was going on, to an exact detail. There are several authors who sometimes go a little overboard on imagery and detail (I’m looking at you Tolkien, my dear friend) because they want to express exactly the setting, the characters, and everything in between. Morgenstern is, however, right on point with her description, giving enough gorgeous detail to draw in and acclimate the reader while still allowing their imagination to run wild. As a chronic dreamer and day-dreamer, the imagery and imagination in this book is enough to induce high levels of absolute pleasure while reading, particularly when Morgenstern describes the various tents at the circus. Each tent felt so positively magical (literally and figuratively) that I yearned to dive into the pages and join Celia and Marco. Honestly, I could gush for ages (and trust me, for my real-world friends, I have).
The Night Circus has an exceptional and innovative plot line; it was truly like nothing I have seen before. We have all seen magical competitions before, of course, but to have it paired with a circus presented an entirely different sort of story. The Circus provides a unique setting for Celia and Marco’s competition, giving it life. The competition isn’t dueling, per se, but an exhibition of skill. Factor in the multitude of characters and different plot lines, and you have something truly, well, magical. I was quite worried about the ending, of course, given certain circumstances of the plot, but I was wholly satisfied. In the interest of revealing nothing to potential readers, I will say that Morgenstern did a marvelous job of presenting a believable denouement without feeling like a cop-out of deus ex machina proportions.
The structure of the book did trip me up, initially, because the chapters vacillate between different time periods and points of view. I’m not embarrassed to say that, at one point, I reread a chapter twice because I didn’t realize the chapter had gone back in time, leaving me extremely confused. Once I got the hang of it, however, it quickly became a wonderful story-telling device, with all of the tangential story lines spiraling around the culminating event without losing any mystery or awe.
Though Celia and Marco are the main characters, Morgenstern provides a supporting cast of characters whose points-of-view enrich the story, giving it more body and vitality than if left to Celia and Marco alone. Each character provides a unique perspective: from Hector Bowen, Celia’s self-dissatisfied father and primary instigator of the competition, to the Circus twins Penelope and Winston (more favorably known as Poppet and Widget) who have their own magical abilities thanks to the unusual circumstances of their birth. If I had to name a favorite character, I would choose the Circus itself. The way Morgenstern presents the Circus, both in description and in terms of plot, there is no doubt that it is its own character. And, indeed, my favorite parts of the novel involve the Circus and the part it plays in the progression of the story.
Overall, I absolutely loved The Night Circus. It is, as I might have mentioned before, gorgeously written and a thoroughly enticing read. The moment I finished I knew I would reread it again and again and I have already begun collecting different editions, something I have only done with two other books. I will be recommending this book to anyone who asks me what they should be reading next, because this is it.
The Night Circus began as a National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) book, which Morgenstern continued working on until it became what it is today.
Celia Bowen, one of the primary characters, didn’t even exist in earlier drafts of the novel.
Film rights to The Night Circus have already been optioned by Summit Entertainment, but there is no news on when (or if) it will ever be made.