Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Review: The Night Circus

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: September 1st, 2011
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

No one knows that the circus is coming, but by the time the black and white tents are set up it’s difficult to remember a time when it wasn’t there. The circus stays for a few days and is open only at night. They call it the circus of dreams. All of the performers dress in black and white and are like nothing anyone has ever seen before. They do things that seem impossible, as if they were done with magic. Le Cirque des RĂªves is the home of a contortionist, a fortuneteller and two red headed twins who are as old as the circus itself. But more importantly, the circus is the playing field for a game that was set in motion before the circus even existed. Celia and Marco have been raised to compete against each other and only one person can be left standing in the end. When the two fall in love, they do not completely understand the true nature of the game and what that means for them. The fate of the entire circus is closely intertwined in a game like no other, and a farm boy from Massachusetts might be the only way to save the circus.

This book has been surrounded by hype lately, and I keep hearing it praised as the best book of 2011. All the same, I could never figure out exactly what it was about. However, all the recommendations were enough to get me to read this book. The Night Circus is about magic and illusion. It’s about a circus unlike any other that is actually the chessboard for a game: a game which only one of the players will be able to walk away from. The story takes place between 1873 and 1903; beginning when an illusionist named Hector Bowen first meets his five-year-old daughter Celia. Hector and a man called Alexander make an arrangement a year later to have Celia compete with a player of Alexander’s choice. The two children are trained in different ways for this competition. Both are immensely talented magicians who do not completely understand the game they are playing. Just as Celia and Marco are thrown into this game, I was thrown into The Night Circus. It is a world of secrets, performances and unexplainable magic.

If I had to describe this book in one word it would be enchanting. The story, the setting, the atmosphere and the characters were all enchanting. This is Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel, and it is truly magnificent. The writing was wonderful, especially all of the detailed descriptions. The first pages are told in the second person, and at first I wasn’t too sure about this choice in point of view. The majority of the story is told in the third person present tense, with a small introduction to a section told in the second person. This ended up working well because I felt exactly what the author was describing, as if I too were filled with awe while viewing the circus for the first time. At times, I felt like I was a part of this world. The story was creative and captivating, and was for the most part well paced. There was one brief moment where the plot was losing my interest, and I just wanted Celia to discover that Marco was her opponent. Right after I thought this, it happened. This book was very difficult to put down: I intended to read a few pages but ended up not stopping for very long until I was finished. The writing and the setting were the strongest elements of this novel. I wasn’t expecting the circus to be so original and vibrant, but it was. While I loved the characters, they did feel a bit distant to me. Maybe it was the narration, or maybe it was because there were quite a few important characters. While I liked Celia and Marco a great deal when they were younger, as they grew older I felt detached from them. I felt like I knew more about the twins than the main characters. Some of the conversations between Marco and Celia (especially her dialogue) felt very forced and unnatural. I did like their romance, but it wasn’t the epic love described on the book jacket. By the end of the book, none of these flaws mattered to me. In a few weeks, I probably won’t remember any of these things that bothered me. While some people loved this book and thought it was perfection, others couldn’t stand it. Since I liked this book so much, I was trying to think of what kind of person The Night Circus is for. Would it be most loved by fans of fantasy? Or is it the opposite: is it perhaps best for people who do not usually read fantasy? One thing is clear: this is a book that is not for everyone. If you like being able to step into the skin of a character or do not enjoy wordy descriptions, then perhaps this book isn’t for you. I would begin reading it with no expectations: don’t begin by expecting it to be a timeless love story or a story about an epic battle, because it’s neither of those two things. However, The Night Circus is an imaginative and enthralling story that left me feeling spellbound.


“Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act?”

1 comment:

  1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is to me, much more than a book. It is an experience to be savoured and treasured by all of those who read it.
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