Cedan's Reviews > The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
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's review
Aug 25, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: fluff
Read in October, 2011

** spoiler alert ** This book had so much potential.

The world that Morgenstern created is so exquisite that it should have been easy for her to spin a good story. The Night Circus could have been a story of intrigue and manipulation. It could have been a heartfelt romance. If Moregenstern wanted to, The Night Circus could even have been a coming of age story with a thoughtful message about growing up and the choices we make.

Instead, the final product is a badly written soap opera. The main characters, Marco and Celia, were very hard to like. They were supposed to be adults, but I personally felt as if they had the emotional maturity of pre-teens. For example, after one of Celia's friends dies, she goes to Marco for comfort. While crying in his chest, Celia says that this character had often written letters to her. This is what Marco says: "I would have written to you as well if I could. A sea of ink is not sufficient to describe my feelings for you." This then turns into an entire conversation where they sap about how much they love each other. Mind you, the friend had been dead for less than a few hours. That's alright though, his death was clearly not as important as their love.

Speaking of their love, it was melodramatic and unrealistic. Marco is enchanted with how beautiful Celia is. Celia plays hard to get, but after one evening in which they have a stale, uninteresting conversation, they are suddenly madly in love. In one scene, Marco held Celia's hand, and the mere touch of his skin on hers had her gasping for breath. Honestly? In another, he grabs her and kisses her in front of a ballroom, and the chandeliers tremble. Every interaction basically involves them either being used a plot vehicles to explain things to the reader, or was an excuse for them to state their love. Over and over and over again. Each time in a more melodramatic way than the last. Never mind that nothing happens for them that actually would cause them to fall in love. Finally, just to drive my point home, here is an actual line from Marco: "I would rather die by her side than live without her!"


Even when their interactions could have been meaningful, one or the other finds a way to devalue the entire scene. At one point in the book, Celia is complaining about the emotional toll that this competition is having on her. Marco offers to go to his mentor and have Celia declared a winner. Hey! Problem solved! (Well, not really, but neither of the characters know that yet)What does Celia do when she is given an answer to every one of her problems? She decides that it is much too tiring to talk about. So instead making an honest effort to figure out their problems together, she enchants him so that he can't speak, complains more about the emotional toll that this competition is having on her, and then has emotional sex with him.

It was such a pity that Morgenstern chose such god awful characters to be the focus of the book. She had so many characters at her disposal who were much more likable and three dimensional. I would have loved the book if it had been about Chandresh and his pride, and how Marco and A.H manipulated that to their ends. Or if it had focused on Prospero and Mr. A.H as they dueled with their ideologies. Though the Burgess sisters were minor characters, their slow realization that something wasn't right with the circus could have made for an interesting main plot. Even if the story was about Bailey, it could have been sweet and adorable. Out of all the potential characters and stories she had, Morgenstern chose the worst, and magnified them up to 1000.

Besides the characters, this reader also had problems with the plot, namely that fact it was vague and riddled with loopholes. The reader is never quite shown how the magic in the book works, or even how the competition itself works. Without this understanding, it was hard to know why Celia and Marco did what they did, because there were a million other things that they could have done that would have made more sense. Lucy's review provides one glaring example. In addition, the plot itself moves dreadfully slow. It takes 16 years for something to actually happen, and Morgenstern tries to distract the reader from that by filling the pages with pretty imagery and tone.

In short, what could have been a fantastic story was ruined by lazy plotting and dreadful characters. Morgenstern should consider a career in art directing-she can create beautiful images and obviously has a vivid imagination, but she cannot create any substance behind her images.
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02/03 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-20 of 20) (20 new)

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rameau And I still want to read this. There's something wrong with me.

Cedan rameau wrote: "And I still want to read this. There's something wrong with me."

The book is worth a quick read as long as you go in knowing what to expect; pretty imagery + descriptions.

If one reads the book just to savor those, it is a rather enjoyable experience. However, if, like I did, you go in expecting character development and/or a plot, you will want to hurl this book against a wall.

My advice is to treat it like a fluff read; you'll enjoy it much, much more. =)

Caroline SPOT ON. So not worth the time.

Miranda Richardson The trouble with love, is that when you're in it, you mean every melodramatic thing you say. And it can happen quite instantly. And yes, even after a man died, I could believe both that the girl would go to find her love before crying, and that the boy who didn't know this man very well would end up drawing the conversation back to courtship without thinking. So I was only too happy also to accept the things those two said to each other ;D I think ultimately, one can enjoy this book only if one knows they're not stepping into a literary masterpiece, but rather, a simple story with a bit of romance and a lot of indulgence in description of aesthetic. I think I enjoyed it because I was prepared to accept it for what it was. It hence greatly exceeded my expectations :P You make some fine points. But considering the comical contrast between one-star and five-star reviewers on this book, this just seems like a reminder that it's all subjective. I wouldn't say that the author has failed in writing this book, simply because there are some people who adored it.

Nancy . . . couldn't agree with you more.

Malia Jonseu Your review has made me and my sister laugh. "Mind you, the friend had been dead for less than a few hours. That's alright though, his death was clearly not as important as their love."

HAHA! Hilarious! Especially since I gave the book a 4 star rating!

Caroline Agree with every single word in this review.

message 8: by Malia (last edited Apr 22, 2013 03:05PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Malia Jonseu I actually bought this book, not because of the awesome story line (the story line was actually quite hard to understand, now that I think about it), but because the circus is exquisite.

Circus good, the two lovers- NOT AT ALL!

Also, I was at an Erin Morgenstern talk just yesterday. She is a great author, but I felt something was killing the story. The long, long, LONG timeline might be it.

Stella Luceat This book DID have so much potential! And that is precisely why this book is such a tragedy! I was SO excited for this; after about page 100 it began to feel like punishment and began to avoid it. So sad.

message 10: by Kris (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kris Agree with Cedan.... Had such potential. And then..... Nothing. To bad because the description was almost intoxicating. A shame the characters and plot were dead on the vine.

Story I think you stated it far more eloquently than I could; you nailed the absurdity of the romance right on the head.

Katharina Thank you so much for this beautifully written review! I thought I was stupid because I couldn't make sense of how their magic really worked. Now, I'm not sure whether the author knew it herself.

Rinsicle I really enjoyed the book, but can definitely agree with the criticism it is getting. What I liked it most for, was the mood and the descriptive setting. It all seemed very magical and at times very real. The circus, which is definitely the highlight of the book, is the kind of place I'd daydream about. Its described as fantastical and mysterious. That's why the book most appealed to me. And yes, there are plot flaws and it does indeed move at a snails pace. But regardless, the beautiful imagery and mood made me almost believe this story were actually true.I don't know if anybody else agrees, but I think that this novel can transport the reader to another world, that is both impossible yet believable. I loved this book. Definitely read it!

Brigitte I feel the same about this book. So many pages and so little happened, yet there was infinite potential.

message 15: by Luna (new) - rated it 4 stars

Luna Shen But that's not the point! I didn't like the romance that much either, but that's not the big thing about the book, this book was genius in the way she put it together and the way she manipulated us to get her messages across.

April I enjoyed the book's imagery and the plot, but I agree that it was poorly developed throughout the book, and had a lot more potential than it was given. I found the characters flat and feel that they could have been much more developed, especially because they had such intertwining and fascinating backgrounds. The imagery carried me through the book though, so I was less annoyed by these shortcomings.

message 17: by Yaz (new) - rated it 2 stars

Yaz This. Exactly this! When I finished the book I was left feeling as if it could have been an amazing story, but it just didn't quite hit the mark. Like there was a key element missing from the story that could have made it brilliant. Your review has completely hit it on the head.

Ruthie I totally agree!

Emily McPheron Definitely agree. Had such potential, great imagery. I didn't even mind the characters too much although I preferred the twins.
It was ridiculous how many mysteries were alluded to and never validated - it didn't make sense and left a ton of questions unanswered.

Piepie Beuttel Am listening it on audiobook now, and while I love Jim Dale narrating, I feel like this book is going on and on forever!! I may put it down and come back to it later. I love her descriptions of things -- the imagery and the way she writes -- but the characters are just not engaging. Kinda disappointed.

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