Tatiana's Reviews > The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
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Jun 10, 11

bookshelves: why-the-hype, 2011
Read from June 08 to 10, 2011

The Night Circus will be a 5-star book for a certain reader. This reader likes a lot of descriptions, doesn't mind a very slow story and has a soft spot for circuses. I am not that reader. I prefer imagery to complement a plot rather than substitute it.

The plot summary of The Night Circus promised many enticing things, but delivered, in my opinion, only on one - lush imagery of a mysterious circus that was a collaborative creation of two rivaling magicians. The book was good 80% description of various circus tents, performances, dinners and pretty, visual acts of magic. I did enjoy it for the first 40 pages or so, but it got old very, very quickly. It got tiresome, it felt indulgent.

The remaining 20% were dedicated to: a battle between the two magicians that consisted of... making up pretty things to impress each other (yes, you read that right, no actual combating of any sorts in this "fierce competition") and a lukewarm romance that came out of the magicians' fascination with each other's creations from a distance, rather than interacting in any meaningful way.

My resulting disappointment with the novel had also a lot to do with the writing style - Morgenstern chose to write in present tense, 3rd person. It worked well for describing imagery, but made the narrative distant, detached and the characters - unrelatable and flat.

To be honest, I am not sure if The Night Circus can even make a decent movie (the rights were bought by Summit). There was not much drama there or action, the story was anti-climactic, the love was dull and the magic was only vaguely defined and seemed to have no rules and limitations.

I am thoroughly puzzled by the book's comparisons to Harry Potter.
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Reading Progress

06/08/2011 page 21
5.0% 2 comments
06/09/2011 page 48
12.0% 5 comments
06/09/2011 page 79
20.0% "VERY descriptive" 2 comments
06/10/2011 page 226
56.0% "Honestly, I am only reading the dialog now." 5 comments
06/10/2011 page 317
82.0% "Final push"

Comments (showing 1-50 of 95) (95 new)


message 1: by Crystal (new)

Crystal So glad I waited, thanks for reading it :) I'm curious to read your review...


message 2: by Crystal (new)

Crystal Good review :) I'm definitely taking one off my tbr. I can't believe there was no epic battle!


Tatiana Zero action. Of any kind.


message 4: by Cory (new) - added it

Cory Le sigh. Sounds like The Prestige, but without the intrigue.


message 5: by Wendy Darling (last edited Jun 10, 2011 08:27PM) (new) - added it

Wendy Darling Hmm. I sometimes enjoy the slower, wordier books that you do not, so...I'm a little unsure about this one. But I really dislike present tense and it doesn't sound like you found a whole lot to enjoy. :/ I might still pick it up...but it's good to go in with tempered expectations!


Tatiana The enjoyment here really depends on the reader. It is not bad, just not for me.


message 7: by Vi (new) - added it

Vi Vi nooooooooooo this is like a day of disappointments on Goodreads for me :( So many promising books I was so excited to read. I'm hoping Circus Galactica is better....


message 8: by Lisa (new)

Lisa I like description but not when it bogs down the book. I don't think I'll be reading this one. I'm usually not a fan of present tense. Very few authors can pull it off in either first or third person narration.


message 9: by Megan (new)

Megan Between the synopsis and your review this book sounds more than a little boring. Does anything happen besides the "fierce competition" and the lukewarm love story?


Tatiana Megan, very little IMO. There is this sort of "mystery" around the circus (mystery because it's a magical rather than regular circus), but we already know that it is magical, so what kind of a mystery is that?

Ah, and in this competition only one magician can survive, but the way it all plays out, there is a very easy and convenient solution to this problem.


message 11: by Catie (new)

Catie Ah, third person present tense...I always have trouble with that. Unwind uses that mode.


message 12: by Megan (new)

Megan Hmmm... think I'll take this one off the TBR list. It sounds a little too boring for 300+ pages.


message 13: by Chichipio (new)

Chichipio I can't say that I hate the use of present tense, but it's very hit or miss for me. I still can't pinpoint what kind of writing makes it work for me, though. So I usually have to try the book before deciding. Luckily, it doesn't seem like I need to worry about this one.


Tatiana Present tense sometimes works for me. For instance, in Wake/Fade. Present tense brought urgency to these stories. In The Night Circus, interestingly enough, the effect is the opposite.


Gretchen Rings Could not agree more! Did not live up to the hype.


message 16: by Sian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sian Lile-Pastore oh... i really loved the book! loved all the descriptions most of all.


message 17: by Anna (new)

Anna Balasi I agree. I'm finding it kind of hard to get into this book. I've picked it up then put it down, and I've finished a dozen other books since then.


Ashley I'm the type of reader who DEVOURED 'Water for Elephants'. This sounds like something that SHOULD be up my alley...but your description sounds like you're a reader like me. Therefore, I may give this a shot...I'll let you know how this goes...


Debbie-marie I am with you all the way. The third person narrative was great in the begining, but you can't really UNDERSTAND or feel any strong connection towards a character because of it.


Bailey I was reading it and I pretty much had the same view on it, and then for some reason one sentence I read I completely noticed the narrative was present/3rd person, and it took me out of reading it. I just sat and stared at the page for 5 minutes, for whatever reason it completely jarred me.


Syahira Sharif Actually I got tired with a lot of books that have linear storylines, I absolutely adore this book. The superb descriptions alone actually says a lot about the author's observation skills. Its imaginative and never predictable. If you dont like it, its your opinion on the matter. I never heard it was related to HP, since its certainly related to the movies like The Illusionist, The Prestige and MirroMask. Its quite a mature read (not too HAE cliched like the rest of the books I've read(, so you probably not within its target group.


message 22: by Megan (new)

Megan Syahira wrote: "...Its quite a mature read (not too HAE cliched like the rest of the books I've read(, so you probably not within its target group."

Puh-lease! In this review, she acknowledged that many people will probably love this book, but it just isn't her style. Why the negativity?

By the way, all you have to do is look at the first page of reviews here on Goodreads to see multiple people comparing this one to Harry Potter. Whether it's a valid comparison or not, people have done it.


Syahira Sharif Megan wrote: "Syahira wrote: "...Its quite a mature read (not too HAE cliched like the rest of the books I've read(, so you probably not within its target group."

Puh-lease! In this review, she acknowledged tha..."


Megan, I set all book reviews to "the most liked review" and this review is the top of the rest so, I read it. Personally I dont really think this review is pretty useful for the book therefore its within my right to question her choice of her reading preference which she rated base on "the writing style". This book is certainly no Harry Potter nor Twilight, so by context, she is definitely not within the target group for the book. BTW, its a very good september debut novel.

Its not really negativity, puh-lease. Its my opinion too.


message 24: by Megan (new)

Megan I'm not sure what you mean by "target group for the book"? Tatiana isn't comparing this to HP, and Twilight came suddenly from you, not her.

Of course people have different opinions and reactions to books. However it does come across as slightly abrasive (and negative!) when you imply that a reviewer isn't mature enough to appreciate a novel simply because she had a different reaction to it than you did.


message 25: by Lucy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lucy Megan, I set all book reviews to "the most liked review" and this review is the top of the rest so, I read it. Personally I dont really think this review is pretty useful for the book therefore its within my right to question her choice of her reading preference which she rated base on "the writing style".


Ookay. You structure your sentences a little weird. I can't tell what you think you have a right to question? Tatiana's reading choices? The fact that she based part of her review on writing style? Those are legitimate ways to review a book. I'm sensing there's a little hate on Tatiana just for being a popular reviewer here more than thinking her review is an illegitimate take on the book.


message 26: by Tatiana (last edited Sep 23, 2011 10:49AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Tatiana Syahira wrote: "Actually I got tired with a lot of books that have linear storylines, I absolutely adore this book. The superb descriptions alone actually says a lot about the author's observation skills. Its imaginative and never predictable. If you dont like it, its your opinion on the matter. I never heard it was related to HP, since its certainly related to the movies like The Illusionist, The Prestige and MirroMask. Its quite a mature read (not too HAE cliched like the rest of the books I've read(, so you probably not within its target group.
"


I would have been offended if I didn't hear this you didn't read it right/you are too dumb to understand/go back to "Twilight" argument a million times before.

My guess would be, Syahira, that you are new to Goodreads. I've noticed mostly newbies (or very young or just plain rude people) think that the best way to defend their beloved book is to talk down to readers with a different opinion. If so, I recommend reading this post on the subject:

http://www.goodreads.com/story/show/2...


message 27: by Marie (new) - added it

Marie *muses* Also, what is a 'mature read', exactly?

Tatiana, I've been thinking of reading this, but I have to say the comment on the 3rd person present tense might be the deciding factor. Like Chichipio, I find that perspective hit or miss, and generally I prefer books with characters, so I don't like to be distanced from them. However the imagery might be worth it. I guess I've got more dithering to do! XD


Tatiana Marie wrote: "*muses* Also, what is a 'mature read', exactly?

Tatiana, I've been thinking of reading this, but I have to say the comment on the 3rd person present tense might be the deciding factor. Like Chichi..."


Marie, check out a couple of chapters via Google Preview here, on GR and see if it works for you. I was enjoying the book for a while, until I wasn't any more.


message 29: by Lucy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lucy I'm reading it now and finding it weird that the reader is first spoken to like someone attending the circus and then privy to everything non-circus-audience related. It made for a powerful start I guess, but the way it transitions flattens the life right out of it.


Eugenia i completely agree with this review


Janet I also completely agree with this review...


message 32: by Sara (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sara Thank you!!! I was beginning to think I was crazy. I am, well, bored for all the reasons you describe. And with so much hypberbolic hype! Bless you. I was beginning to doubt my judgment.


Meghan I completely agree with your review!


message 34: by J (new) - added it

J Me too! Thank you for confirming what I thought about the book. And goodness, weren't its sentences painfully simple?


Spellingwitch I have to agree completely.


Lnaimark Your comment "I prefer imagery to complement a plot rather than to substitute it." captures my feelings perfectly about this book. I feel this book is a good start on a screenplay - needs a director to provide a storyline and actors to provide emotion.


Good Reads Over Coffee Book Club Wells I have to agree totally. I lost interest about a quarter way through. I would wager that the writer is immature in all aspects of her life and relationships based on her inability of her characters to connect or relate intimately. She says on her blog that she is influenced by Stephen King and J.K. Rowling- two authors whom I have never read, but I have seen some of their movies and their characters are poignant and alive. Keep trying Erin.


message 38: by Katie (new) - rated it 1 star

Katie Parker I'm a little over halfway through this book and feel the same way as you. Very disappointing.


Julie Ehlers I'm on page 300 and so far I agree with this review entirely. This book is extremely frustrating. I also don't agree with another commenter's remark that this is a "mature read." I've been thinking all along that this should have been marketed as a YA book. Everything about it, including the romances, is so on-the-surface that it actually does remind me of "Twilight"--which I found equally tiresome.


message 40: by Rogue (new) - added it

 Rogue uh oh. what have I gotten myself into? lol


Patrick Burgess I wish you would give it a second try, maybe sometime in the future when you've forgotten some part of the unenjoyment the first reading gave you.

From your review it doesn't sound like you read it as thoroughly, or maybe as slowly, or carefully, as it deserves - there's so much drama and emotion and suspense, but it's extremely subtle.

If you're reading this after having become accustomed to books that quickly reveal everything important (conflicts, possibilities of resolution, potential love interests, etc) then it's understandable that it would seem boring and uneventful by contrast. Like Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind, it builds slowly but meaningfully, with purpose. Everything serves a purpose. The white fire in the courtyard. The broken tea cup. The silver knife. Even the circus itself. The circus is probably the most subtle, maybe because it is so intricate you're distracted from noticing that the circus is the battle as well as the romance and the conflict and the suspense, of the novel. The circus and everything in it reflects the dynamic between the two magicians, their inner state and subconsciousness. I think most things in the book serve two purposes: an obvious one, and a symbolic/magical/psychological one.

The descriptions are lovely, yes, but the subtlety, noticing things beyond the details and figuring why they're important (or being shown why later), was like unraveling a secret puzzle box filled with things you always wanted but never knew you were missing until they fell into your hand. For me any way.

Maybe it's why the book is called The Night Circus, and not Two Magicians In Love, or The Most Amazing Circus You've Ever Read About.

In any case, think about it. I think if you went back with a more discerning and patient ;) eye (with less expectations as they've already been dashed) I think you'll be surprised. Maybe cause I'm an English major and I've just gotten through a slew of old, really slow, oh-my-god subtle, description-heavy classics I took it slower, with a blood-shot analytical eye.


Tatiana Patrick, I am glad you enjoyed this novel, but let's just agree that different people love different things in literature. I am pretty sure that no matter how many times and how slowly and thoroughly I read The Night Circus, I will never love it.


message 43: by Cory (new) - added it

Cory Tatiana wrote: "Patrick, I am glad you enjoyed this novel, but let's just agree that different people love different things in literature. I am pretty sure that no matter how many times and how slowly and thorough..."

It's always nice when people suggest that you haven't read a book carefully enough, isn't it? On another note, the author's next book sounds better than this. It seems like she's grasped basic concepts such as plot and pacing.


Patrick Burgess I really dislike online discourse especially posting static messages online because you can't hear the, I don't know, emotional context? of what someone is saying. I apologize if I snidely implied that you're not a discerning reader, I just thought that it seemed like you'd missed the things I thought made the book so subtle and interesting. I guess those could also be reasons why you didn't like it. It's just that so many people are criticizing her writing ability when its such a well-written book. Granted the ending wasn't the grande finale we were all expecting (that was a disappointment) but for people to imply that the book is one dimensional disappoints me in a way because I took so much more away from it than that (and I'm not the kind to get carried away by whimsy). I just wish everyone could. Like sharing an exciting, wonder-filled experience with other people.

Oh well, i thought I'd give it a whack, couldn't hurt. To each their own! ;) A lot of people don't like Patric Rothfuss' books and even though I think they should be admitted to the literary asylum, *shrugs*.

Thank you for being so restrained in your reply, Tatiana, I was bracing myself for something more slap-like X).


Bonnie I actually think this could be a fantastic movie with the right director/scriptwriter, and I'm basing this entirely on Stardust. That book had the same dreamy, quiet feel as this one. And the movie was fantastic, because they played with the plot and added action and momentum, but did in a way that was true to the book in spirit (obviously not the slow part of the spirit...).

I think a good scriptwriter adding action + the visuals this book would provide would = AMAZING.

Of course, it could also make an incredibly terrible movie. Who knows.


Angie I ended up giving it 4 stars. I enjoyed the parts about the circus descriptions. But I agree about the love story... and I felt so bad for the fortune teller. I think the last half of the book was good.. which is why it got 4 stars... but now I am thinking 3. I am just confused!


Angie Ok so I sat here thinking about it and moved it to 3 stars.


Tatiana I am quite surprised you liked this book, Angie, but I am glad you did at the same time. It was difficult for me to enjoy it.


Angie I guess maybe why I liked it is because I am tired of the same old vampires, werewolves so when I read something different I get too excited. Do you know if this is marketed as a YA book? I didn't really feel like it was one.


Tatiana I've seen some people call it YA, but it isn't YA at all IMO.


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