Kari's Reviews > The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
May 02, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, romance, young-adult
Read from April 09 to 20, 2012

Contrary to belief, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern does have a story. It's there, but it's somewhat hard to find if you're not really looking.

I was honestly impressed with the subtlety of this book. The game in which Celia Bowen and Marco play is based on subtlety after all. They must test their mettle against each other, each one attempting to out do the other for the longest until a winner is declared and the loser is, well, dead. It's a simple survival-of-the-fittest game that is dependent on mental strength and resolve more than physical strength. It's a game where the burden to perform can become too heavy to bear, especially after years of sly manipulation of the elements around the characters.

Don't get me wrong. Each time Celia or Marco asked their mentors for clarification, it would have been nice to have definitive answers on what the rules of the game are. If wiping the floor with your opponent could have been as easy as killing them directly (picture the wizard's duel in Disney's The Sword in the Stone), then perhaps it would have been good to know even that. I'm not even sure if that's a rule of the game, but it would have been an interesting one. Instead, the reader is left trying to figure out the rules right alongside the key players, and once the answer presents itself it's still hard to wrap your head around.

The scenery Morgenstern built was beautiful. The circus became a living thing, and I found the important characters to be complimentary aspects of such a special venue. There were some things I found rather unsatisfying when it came to the original brainstormers of the group. Tara Burgess and Mr. Chandresh Lefevre are bothersome to me. Tara, because the story touches briefly on her breakdown but leaves so many questions hanging; Chandresh because he carries on like a lunatic most of the time and is not committed, charged with murder, and so much more.

I really enjoyed the fact that Celia and Marco were working together while working against each other. What's that old proverb? "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer"? Apply that to Celia and Marco and you've got a perfect match. Their game does drag on for sometime, but their exhibitions grow more grand as time passes. And eventually their pieces land on the same space and you end up with rooms like the Labyrinth, and the Wishing Tree and Ice Garden. I found it sad (as in the emotion, not sarcastically) that other people were drawn into the game. Especially those whom Celia and Marco grew to know over the course of the years. To see them fizzle out and question their own sanity could only be a small portion of what these two magicians could have felt. But really, we don't know beyond the simple scenes where Celia cannot carry on anymore. I'm just adding where I questioned their resolve. Still, for the world that was built, the Night Circus and its players were well woven together nicely.

I don't know that the era in which this story takes place in really mattered. Perhaps late 1800s/early 1900s were the circus' prime eras? I'm not sure. Of the time frame itself, I wasn't a big fan of the jumping ahead and back, but as the story began stitching together, I understood the necessity of it. The second-person interludes I assume were more to tie in with a story Widget begins telling, as the first line of his story and the opening line of the first (second-person) scene begin the same. So in a way, there were two stories being told in one.

All in all, I was really captivated with this book. The writing was excellent and the scenery built within was outstanding. If more on the mechanics of the magic and the game being played had been better explained, then perhaps I would have given this a true five-star rating. If you're open to intrigues and subtle altercations, then this book will be for you. If you're expecting some outlandish and over-the-top action, then don't bother. This isn't The Vampire's Assistant, or even Water for Elephants where circus-life is full of open drama. Sometimes it takes a true magician to carry the weight of their world in a ball of flame or upon the candles of a Wishing Tree.

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Night Circus.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

04/10/2012 page 50
show 4 hidden updates…

No comments have been added yet.