Cait's Reviews > The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
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Sep 21, 11

Read from September 14 to 18, 2011

Aw hell, I'm going to rate this 4.5 stars. I can't resist this book was so freaking good. I don't normally change my ratings, so don't expect this TOO often.

My feelings are so conflicted about this book. I don't know whether to immortalize it for all eternity in a frame on my wall, or throw it into the fire.

So, how the hell am I supposed to rate this book? A million stars, one star, 837 stars, what? In the end I did some crazy, overly complicated math that really makes so sense in my head, and came out with four (which I raised to 4.5 because I'm such a weakling) stars.

For the longest time during the book, over two hundred and fifty pages, I thought that I disliked this book for some very specific reasons, but this is where the confusing part comes in so hang with me for a second: once you get to the end, you realize that you only thought you hated those parts, and it was really all part of Morgenstern's brilliant plan!

I know a few of you are probably giving me this look right now:



Don't worry, though, I'll explain! Let me start by saying that this is a book you definitely have to read twice. The first time, you really aren't going to understand all of the nuances and parts of this story until, well, until it's way too late. That's something pretty special-and rare-about this book; it reminds me a lot of Great Expectations in that way. Let me try to elaborate with, since I know you guys love this sooooo much, ........ a story!

Most books and/or series that you read these days, you pretty much know the whole plot (sometimes even books before the TSTL character does) and how it's going to end: in a predicable, sappy, cheezy, blah blah blah you've read it a million times kind of ending; sometimes even just a couple of pages into the novel. In The Night Circus , you really don't. The plot strings start out so loosely that you can see little to no connection to them besides the two obvious ones with Marco and Celia. You've seen loose strings before in many a sloppy novel, so you just dismiss out all of ones you deemed "unimportant" in your eyes and focus on Marco and Celia. Wrong move. You get more and more confused as the book goes on; what's with all the other POVs and time jumps? Really, just a general what the hell is going on? But that's not the truth; while you're so eagerly and attentively looking at your two little strings, Morgenstern brings all of those other little strings closer.....and closer......and closer together until, unbeknownst to you, she starts weaving them in with Marco and Celia. As I said, you're still in the dark about most of it, but you do notice that the book is getting better, but don't realize until there's only about forty pages left that, holy fucking shit, your two little strings that you started out with is now a huge, complicated, rope, but the book won't let you stop and analyze it. It carries you forward in a wave of sheer awesomeness as you devour every page. Then, you get to the end of the book, and your brain blows up. It literally blows into a million billion little pieces all over wherever you're sitting as your cat crawls all over you and nips your ankles (which is why I suggest you don't finish this book in a public place, because you will be incapacitated for several minutes and look like an invalid).

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When you finally get your brain back together, it almost blows up again when you realize that she planned for you to feel like this all along. She's been playing you and has had you wrapped around her little pinky finger from the start. Like Great Expectations, you're never really going to understand the plot and all of the strings fully until you read it through twice, when you can really fully comprehend every little detail that Morgenstern wrote into this story.

Now that I told you about how my brain exploded about twice, let me get on with this review and tell you what I thought was annoying:

What I'm about to tell you right now is not a joke. There are fifteen fricking POVs/main characters in this book that you're supposed to keep track of, and in case you still don't believe me, I'll list them for you:
1.Marco
2.Celia
3.Tara Burgess
4.Poppet
5.Thessien
6.Pospero
7.Mr. Barris
8.Isobel
9.Bailey
10.Chandresh
11. Widget
12. Mr. Murray
13. Lainine
14. Tante Padva
15. Tsukiko
There are also chapters where she does it in POVs of other people from the circus, and sometimes she writes as though you're the one walking through it. Like I said, the first time you read through it, this can be very confusing and overwhelming, but once you read it through again, knowing the ending (and you can bet that I re-read this amazing book the second I was done with it) you truly understand these characters and why Morgenstern did it. And, no, I'm not going to tell you what at the end of the book made me change my mind so suddenly, you'll just have to read it yourself and be as astounded as I was. It's definitely worth waiting for.


Awwww don't pout, I know you guys will love it!

The other thing that hurt my head about this book was the seemingly obsessive amount of date jumping. We go from the early 1890's, to 1895, to 1893, back to 1898, up to 1901, back to 1899, etc. It was very struggling to read; she be in 1895 for a chapter, jump around through years for 5 or more chapters, then go back to 1985 like I was expected to remember everything that happened before, and most of the time it would be with different people than the ones I'd read however many chapters ago. It was hard, let me tell you, but what pushed me through, the amazing life preserver that Morgenstern threw me, was the writing.

Ohhhhhh the writing *drools at the mouth*

It is seriously some of the best stuff I've ever had the pleasure to read and enjoy. And for those of you that know me and have seen some of my other reviews, you guys know that that doesn't happen much at all. It flows so perfectly, sounds so beautiful, and uses just some of the most gorgeous wordplay I've ever read. It truly is stunning. Here's some examples that just knocked the breath right out of my lungs:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen. No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky; countless tents of varying shapes and sizes, with an elaborate wrought-iron fence encasing them in a colorless world. Even what little ground is visible from outside is black or white, painted or powdered, or treated with some other circus trick.

The ticket booth clearly visible behind the gates is closed and barred. The tents are still, save for when they ripple ever so slightly in the wind. The only movement within the circus is the clock that ticks by the passing minutes, if such a wonder of sculpture can even be called a clock. The circus looks abandoned and empty. But you think perhaps you can smell caramel wafting through the evening breeze, beneath the crisp scent of the autumn leaves. A subtle sweetness at the edges of the cold. The sun disappears completely beyond the horizon, and the remaining luminosity shifts from dusk to twilight. The people around you are growing restless from waiting, a sea of shuffling feet, murmuring about abandoning the endeavor in search of someplace warmer to pass the evening. You yourself are debating departing when it happens. First, there is a popping sound. It is barely audible over the wind and conversation. A soft noise like a kettle about to boil for tea. Then comes the light. All over the tents, small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. The waiting crowd quiets as it watches this display of illumination. Someone near you gasps. A small child claps his hands with glee at the sight. When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears.

(and here's another one)

The woman wears a dress something akin to a bridal gown constructed for a ballerina, white and frothy and laced with black ribbons that flutter in the night air. Her legs are encased in striped stockings, her feet in tall black button-up boots. Her dark hair is piled in waves upon her head, adorned with sprays of white feathers. Her companion is a handsome man, somewhat taller than she, in an impeccably tailored black pinstriped suit. His shirt is a crisp white, his tie black and pristinely knotted. A black bowler hat sits upon his head. They stand entwined but not touching, their heads tilted toward each other. Lips frozen in the moment before (or after) the kiss. Though you watch them for some time they do not move. No stirring of fingertips or eyelashes. No indication that they are even breathing. “They cannot be real,” someone nearby remarks.
Many patrons only glance at them before moving on, but the longer you watch, the more you can detect the subtlest of motions. The change in the curve of a hand as it hovers near an arm. The shifting angle of a perfectly balanced leg. Each of them always gravitating toward the other. Yet still they do not touch.

(one more, just to sate your guys' thirst)

But that is before it is wound. Before it begins to tick, the pendulum swinging steadily and evenly. Then, then it becomes something else. The changes are slow. First, the color changes in the face, shifts from white to grey, and then there are clouds that float across it, disappearing when they reach the opposite side. Meanwhile, bits of the body of the clock expand and contract, like pieces of a puzzle. As though the clock is falling apart, slowly and gracefully. All of this takes hours.
The face of the clock becomes a darker grey, and then black, with twinkling stars where the numbers had been previously. The body of the clock, which has been methodically turning itself inside out and expanding, is now entirely subtle shades of white and grey. And it is not just pieces, it is figures and objects, perfectly carved flowers and planets and tiny books with actual paper pages that turn. There is a silver dragon that curls around part of the now visible clockwork, a tiny princess in a carved tower who paces in distress, awaiting an absent prince. Teapots that pour into teacups and minuscule curls of steam that rise from them as the seconds tick. Wrapped presents open. Small cats chase small dogs. An entire game of chess is played. At the center, where a cuckoo bird would live in a more traditional timepiece, is the juggler. Dressed in harlequin style with a grey mask, he juggles shiny silver balls that correspond to each hour. As the clock chimes, another ball joins the rest until at midnight he juggles twelve balls in a complex pattern. After midnight the clock begins once more to fold in upon itself. The face lightens and the clouds return. The number of juggled balls decreases until the juggler himself vanishes.
By noon it is a clock again, and no longer a dream.


If you guys aren't sold on the snippets I just gave you, then you're all nuts. Certifiably nuts.

In the end, I would recommend this book to almost anyone and everyone, as long as they actually know what an amazing book really is. If you're huge fans of these books: Hush, Hush, Twilight, Halo, Angel Star, etc, read nothing else but those, think that classics are stupid, out of date, books, and don't have enough patience to be able to truly enjoy a challenging book instead of just being half filled on pathetic YA tropes, then this book is totally might be out of your pathetic league. But for everyone else, READ THIS NOW!.......... or else. If you think I'm kidding.....

I'm not.

Just kidding!

Or am I........?

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Reading Progress

09/15/2011 page 1
0.0% "Holy shit I love this book. Black woman freak-out time! haaaaiiiiillllll yes!" 2 comments
09/16/2011 page 10
3.0% ""Pospero's the Enchanter's immediate reaction upon seeing his daughter is a simple declaration of, 'well, fuck'" bhahahah. I love the language and prose of this author. It's great and hilarious."
09/16/2011 page 50
13.0% ""Isobel laughs again, and she is still laughing when he leans closer and kisses her. The pair of birds circle overhead as a light wind blows through the branches of the trees around them. To passersby on the darkened London street, they look like nothing out of the ordinary, only young lovers kissing in the rain." Ahhhhhh young love <3" 13 comments
09/16/2011 page 55
14.0% "God, Celia's father is an asshole. I can't even read one like from him without wanting to slap him into the next century." 6 comments
09/16/2011 page 70
18.0% "I feel like this is me and my book's first date, and I'm anxiously waiting for the plot to show up so we actually have something to talk about." 15 comments
09/16/2011 page 90
23.0% "Oh my God finally something is happening! It just attacked me with awesomeness! In this case, I like being attacked!" 2 comments
09/16/2011 page 110
28.0% "Aaaannnndd it slowed down again. Can we just get to the contest, please?"
09/17/2011 page 126
33.0% "I feel like this book is playing a very cruel game of peek-a-boo with me. no fair, book :(" 3 comments
09/17/2011 page 170
44.0% "Graaaahhhh. There's got to be at least eight different points of view in this book; it's tiring trying to keep up with them all."
09/17/2011 page 190
49.0% "Still waiting for the real contest to start......I'm getting tired of all of the descriptions of the circus. I love the circus, but I can only hear about it so many times."
09/17/2011 page 210
54.0% "This is how many POV's I've had in this book to date: Marco, Celia, Tara Burgess, Chandresh, Poppet, Thessien, Pospero, Mr. Barris, Isobel, Bailey, Chandresh, sometimes chapters with no character POV's at all, sometimes in the POV's of random spectators. My head hurts. "
09/17/2011 page 230
59.0% "YES! They finally freaking kiss! I'm going to give myself a celebratory high-five for even making it this far without some sort of plot movement! Yeah, me! You go girl!"
09/17/2011 page 260
67.0% "Finally, the plot is beginning to putter along. I thought that it would never happen."
09/18/2011 page 297
77.0% "Thank the Lord that this plot is finally going somewhere. I"m finally excited about his book!"
09/18/2011 page 340
88.0% "Oh, dear. This book is almost done, and even after all of the confusing shit I went through with this book, I don't want it to end."
09/18/2011 page 386
100.0% "Holy shit. My mind is blown right now."

Comments (showing 1-50 of 67) (67 new)


message 1: by Hannah (new) - added it

Hannah J-JEALOUS. I wanted it so bad but it's way to expensive for little ol' me'z |-_-,|


Cait Hana❦Joy wrote: "J-JEALOUS. I wanted it so bad but it's way to expensive for little ol' me'z |-_-,|"

Awwwzzz I'm sorry :( hopefully you get it soon because I'm really enjoying it! Not having money really sucks.


message 3: by Hannah (new) - added it

Hannah I know! GAH!


Cait Hana❦Joy wrote: "I know! GAH!"

I just got some money to buy books, but I've been going crazy for about two weeks!


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

If you're about 100 pages ahead of me having the same problem and this circus is technically monochromatic, there's a problem.


Cait Yeah it's definetely becoming a problem. And I'm having a hard time keeping up with all of the different POV's.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm okay with that so far, but do you notice the weird jump in time? Sometimes it's 1902, other times it's 1887, 1892, ect.


Cait Yeah I do. It's so confusing; I really have no idea how old Marco and Celia are. Sometimes I think they are early twenties then others she says that it's been years; I can't keep track of it all.


message 9: by Hannah (new) - added it

Hannah Cait wrote: "Hana❦Joy wrote: "I know! GAH!"

I just got some money to buy books, but I've been going crazy for about two weeks!"


I bought's it! :D


message 10: by Cait (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cait Ohhhhh that's awesome, Hana!:D yayyyyyyyyy! I'm having some troubles with it right now, but I'm hoping it turns around soon!


message 11: by Hannah (new) - added it

Hannah Cait wrote: "Ohhhhh that's awesome, Hana!:D yayyyyyyyyy! I'm having some troubles with it right now, but I'm hoping it turns around soon!"

Uh oh O.O *Trembles in fear and checks for receipt*


message 12: by Cait (last edited Sep 17, 2011 06:08PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cait I mean, the writing is some of the best I've ever seen hands down , but there's about 9 POVs, she jumps around on dates, and we still really haven't gotten to the meat of the competition and I'm over halfway in already. I don't know *sigh* it's just not exactly what I expected.


message 13: by Hannah (new) - added it

Hannah Cait wrote: "I mean, it's The writing is some of the best I've ever seen hands Dow , but there's about 9 POVs, she jumps around on dates, and we still really haven't gotten to the meat of the competition and I'..."

9 POV's!? O.O Jumping through time!? Well fuck...


message 14: by Cait (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cait Yeah. In one chapter your in 1895, then next you're in '93, then five chapters later you're in '95 and you're expected to remember what happened, then she jumps back up to '99, and so on and no forth. Then there's Marco, Celia, Tara Burgess, Chandresh, Poppet, Thessien, Pospero, Mr. Barris, Isobel, Bailey, Chandresh, sometimes she does chapters with no character POV's at all, sometimes in the POV's of random spectators. It's extremely hard to keep up with.


message 15: by Hannah (new) - added it

Hannah Aw hell... I'm nervous now!


message 16: by Steph (new) - added it

Steph Sinclair Can't wait to read the review!!


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

It's four stars so Cait must have enjoyed it! No need to be nervous, Hana.


message 18: by Cait (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cait Mocha ღ wrote: "It's four stars so Cait must have enjoyed it! No need to be nervous, Hana."

Yeah, this is almost a book that you need to read twice to fully understand it, as you know, Mocha. That ending....man.


message 19: by Hannah (new) - added it

Hannah Cillian wrote: "Hana❦Joy wrote: "Aw hell... I'm nervous now!"

Why are you nervous, kitten?"


Phew :D Never Mind!


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Cait wrote: "Mocha ღ wrote: "It's four stars so Cait must have enjoyed it! No need to be nervous, Hana."

Yeah, this is almost a book that you need to read twice to fully understand it, as you know, Mocha. Tha..."


Ugh, I know!
I think I might re-read is soon.


message 21: by Cait (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cait Mocha ღ wrote: "Cait wrote: "Mocha ღ wrote: "It's four stars so Cait must have enjoyed it! No need to be nervous, Hana."

Yeah, this is almost a book that you need to read twice to fully understand it, as you kno..."


My brain is throughly blown. I sat there for literally two minutes after finishing just staring at it with my mouth in a little o shape.
I know that I'll have to re-read this soon. I desperately need to know this book better after that.


message 22: by Cait (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cait Stephanie wrote: "Can't wait to read the review!!"

It's up! :)


message 23: by Steph (new) - added it

Steph Sinclair Ok, I've just promoted this book the top of my TBR list. I have it on my kindle and I'll read it right after I finish Succubus Revealed (can't renew this. It's a line at the library.).

Great review. I'm a sucker for beautiful prose!


message 24: by Cindy (new) - added it

Cindy great review Cait! I had read so many mixed reviews I just didn't know what to think. Well I will have to get it with my next order:) Those prose were just beautiful! Thanks for the laughs too:)


message 25: by John (new) - added it

John Egbert And this is going on my to-reads list!


message 26: by Cait (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cait Mello wrote: "And this is going on my to-reads list!"

Yayyyyy! :D Don't you just love how she writes? It's sheer awesomeness.

Cindy wrote: "great review Cait! I had read so many mixed reviews I just didn't know what to think. Well I will have to get it with my next order:) Those prose were just beautiful! Thanks for the laughs too:)"

Well I'm glad I could help you out with it, Cindy! It seriously is worth it, even if you get a little frustrated at first. And the cover is to die for.

Stephanie wrote: "Ok, I've just promoted this book the top of my TBR list. I have it on my kindle and I'll read it right after I finish Succubus Revealed (can't renew this. It's a line at the library.).

Great revi..."


Thanks, Stephanie! :D ugh I know! and that's only a few of the hundreds of great lines in this whole book! Morgenstern is truly an amazing writer.


Taneika (Flipping Through The Pages...) definitely getting this!!


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

We sold out of copies the other day and today we had several customers complaining....sheesh!


message 29: by Cait (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cait Mocha ღ wrote: "We sold out of copies the other day and today we had several customers complaining....sheesh!"

Well, as you know, Mocha dear, it's because it's such an amazing book :) Sorry if they were complaining, though, that's no fun. It's not like it's your fault that you don't have the book in stock! If they make a movie they'd better not ruin it or I'm gonna be pissed

Taneika wrote: "definitely getting this!!"

Well good! :D


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

Cait wrote: "Mocha ღ wrote: "We sold out of copies the other day and today we had several customers complaining....sheesh!"

Well, as you know, Mocha dear, it's because it's such an amazing book :) Sorry if th..."


I'm looking forward to seeing how they portray the Ice Garden.


Erica (daydreamer) Cait, you have me drooling with those quotes! I need more! It sounds utterly fantastic.


message 32: by Anila (new) - added it

Anila Apparently I'm crazy, because I don't like the quotes much. A few of the sentences stand out, but not whole blocks. Of course, that may be tainted by the fact that I have a visual aversion to large sections of italic text, particularly in the font Goodreads uses.

That aside, though, I'm glad to hear you liked this book. It sounds really interesting - I can't say I'll run out and buy it, but I'll keep a weather eye open for a chance to get my hands on it.


message 33: by Cait (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cait Erica (daydreamer) wrote: "Cait, you have me drooling with those quotes! I need more! It sounds utterly fantastic."

It is utterly fantastic, Erica. I hope you get the opportunity to read it soon!

Mocha ღ wrote: "Cait wrote: "Mocha ღ wrote: "We sold out of copies the other day and today we had several customers complaining....sheesh!"

Well, as you know, Mocha dear, it's because it's such an amazing book :..."


Me, too. Really it will be interesting to see how they portray everything from this book. The Wishing Tree, The Labyrinth, Celia's shows; It's all so fantastic and image-filled.


message 34: by Cait (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cait Anila wrote: "Apparently I'm crazy, because I don't like the quotes much. A few of the sentences stand out, but not whole blocks. Of course, that may be tainted by the fact that I have a visual aversion to lar..."

And that's fine, Anila! There's a lot of other points in the book that you may like that I didn't mention in here; it's all about preference :)

And thanks! I really did enjoy it quite a bit. It's very refreshing from the senseless YA muck that I've been reading lately, that's for sure.


Kerri Rifkin On your list of 16 main characters, you listed Chandresh twice. (4&11) Just FYI.


message 36: by Cait (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cait Ohhh oops! Thanks, Kerri! :)


message 37: by [deleted user] (new)

Awesome review. I love the media you use :))


Brigid *Flying Kick-a-pow!* Super cool review, Cait. Usually multiple perspectives and time-jumping drives me nuts, but it sounds like the author knows what she's doing in this case. I'm excited to read it. :)


message 39: by Cait (last edited Sep 22, 2011 07:41AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cait Brigid *Flying Kick-a-pow!* wrote: "Super cool review, Cait. Usually multiple perspectives and time-jumping drives me nuts, but it sounds like the author knows what she's doing in this case. I'm excited to read it. :)"

Yeah normally it does for me, too, but this authors a genius because she actually planned every single little detail! I hope you like it!

Mupples wrote: "Awesome review. I love the media you use :))"

Thanks Mupples!:) I love them all <3


message 40: by Thoo (new)

Thoo Lol, this review is like my favourite. Ever. SOO funny=P. And WOW those pieces from the book were AMAZING! When they ended I was like "NOOO come back to mee!"O_o I wasn't gonna by this book before, but I read Veronica Roth's blog post on recommendations, and this was on it, so I figured I might as well check it out. ... Wow, I still can' t get over how amazing that writing was in just those 3 paragraphs. Reminds me of how amazing Harry Potter was written. Thank You for writing this, you made my Morning!


Lissa I'm not done with the book yet, but this perfectly describes how I feel. So confused by the plot, but loving the writing. Came to GoodReads to read the reviews to see if I should give up on it or not. Will finish just based off of this review.


message 42: by Cait (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cait Lissa wrote: "I'm not done with the book yet, but this perfectly describes how I feel. So confused by the plot, but loving the writing. Came to GoodReads to read the reviews to see if I should give up on it or n..."

Good, because it will literally leave you shell-shocked and amazed at how she planned it all out. I hope it went the same way for you that it did for me.


Arely I completely and totally agree.


message 44: by Lois (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lois Really???????????


Karen what a great review of this awesome book!


Lunarbabee Your reveiw sums up my feeling perfety. Thank you.


Sally You have just given words to exactly what was crossing my mind. Wonderfully written review...


Michella THIS is exactly how I felt as soon as I finished reading. EXACTLY! And I didn't finish it in public, thankfully. My mouth literally dropped AND I WAS INDEED STONE FOR A GOOD FIVE MINUTES!


Deidré Golding You cinvinced me I am definately going to read it a second time, making notes of dates etc. in my "notebook" as well, so that I can tie the strings together, like Marco did with his elaborate notebook.


Addison I had no idea how to describe my feelings about this book, but you nailed it. I totally agree. As you read it, you know the writing is beautiful, you know the characters are interesting & dynamic, but you're so freaking confused & anxious about the plot that you're just not sure what to do with yourself. But then...it all ties together & you think, "Holy hell, this woman is brilliant!" I definitely think I would appreciate it even more with a second read.


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