Ben's Reviews > The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
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's review
Dec 17, 13

Read from November 29 to December 17, 2013

How did I wind up reading this? A certain household librarian left it lying out, and next thing I knew, there I was. In all honesty, I'd been meaning to read it. I have a lucid memory of the time when the book was making its debut. The Echo Bazaar people, FailBetterGames, hosted a similar game of the book where you got to tour the Cirque des Rêves, and the game was entirely enchanting. (I presume Ms Morgenstern wrote the game text as well, but don't actually know it for a fact.) As usual, though, it was luck and circumstance that actually put the opened book in front of me--and I'm glad it did.

The Night Circus is very much in the same vein as Jonathan Strange Mr Norrell; an enchanting curio perched on the windowsill between fairytale and novel, and there's not a thing wrong with that. When I say fairytale, I don't mean the modern, toothless, all-in-pastels kind, either. This book is surprisingly dark in bits. Not [i]that[/i] dark. Not George R.R. Martin dark, which I don’t think I would have wanted, although I did find myself wishing that some of the darker twists were a little closer, a little more visceral, a little less aestheticized, so that I felt the peril and heartbreak a little more keenly. I would say that its artistic eccentricities are both what make the book and what, in a few points, weaken it some. Enemies that I expected to be villainous caricatures turned out to have depth and motives (bits of the tale reminded me of Miyazaki films), plot turns sometimes hinge on strong, simple symbols (such as time), rather than Dickensian contrivances. And magic.

Magic is the other topic worth discussing here. The book describes the magic the characters perform in sweeping and grandiose vagaries, and for the most part it works. There are no midichlorines here. There is no cerebral system to distract you from the story. But at times those vagaries are too vague. The impressionistic and nouveau flourishes that for most of the book enchant at a few junctures read like mumbo-jumbo macguffins. She did this, and couldn’t do that, because fol-the-dol-diddle-I-do, and that’s all you get.

I suppose you could accuse the book of putting style before substance. But then, the style is superb and a feast for the imagination, and there is substance there. Enough to gobble this book up, enjoy it, and suffer no regret.

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Reading Progress

11/29/2013 marked as: currently-reading
12/17/2013 marked as: read

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