Book Review: The Night Circus

Cover image designed by Pei Loi Koay

The Night Circus has been on my bookshelf for quite some time, but I never quite got around to it. I am glad I did. This book reminded me strongly of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, especially with respect to to pace, themes, and overall tone. When first released, The Night Circus won several awards and spent 7 weeks on the New York Times best seller list. I can see why.

If you are an author, this one is worth a read for the craft alone. The Night Circus took me places. I have not read a book for quite some time that evoked such a strong sense of place. Eric Morgenstern expertly wields the exact right description to go a step beyond painting a picture of a magical circus – you feel like you’re there.

The writer weaves multiple timelines together seamlessly. Even in starting in different years with different characters, no balls are dropped, nothing is spoiled, and – more importantly – the tension rises steadily.

Every character great and small is unique, vibrant, and alive. I never once found myself wondering who a side character was, even if they had not spoken for 100 pages. With the more front-and-center characters, I eventually caught myself predicting how they would react paragraphs before they did so, because their character and motivations were clear and consistent throughout.

The Basics

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Genre: Historical Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Doubleday, 2011

Spoiler-Free Summary

Celia and Marco are either the luckiest children in the world, or the most cursed. They are trained from an early age to master fantastic magical powers. They travel the world and move in the best circles, sometimes performing for adoring crowds. However, their magical patrons hide dark secrets. Soon, the young apprentices find themselves wrapped up in a deadly esoteric competition, disguised as a magical teleporting circus. Nothing is what it seems at the Circus of Dreams. If the demands of their arcane contest were not enough, the young apprentices soon find that they are pulled together by more than just fate and common ability.

Illustration by artist Christine Kornacki

Why This Book May Be For You

If you ever just shut a book for a second, or mark your place, close your eyes, inhale, and linger on the scene you just read, this book is for you. The Night Circus evokes a powerful sense of wonder throughout, transporting the reader from one fantastic tent to another. If you enjoy a slow-burn, character-driven tale, give this one a chance.

Why This Book May Not Be For You

I can imagine that looking at the cover, back material, and even the first few pages, some readers might expect more of a mystery, perhaps even darker themes. The Night Circus is not that. If you want a little more action and punchier pacing in your magical fantasy, this will not be your cup of tea.

Where Can I Find More?

As always, you can find Erin Morganstern’s full library on Goodreads or Amazon. If you would like to check out her thoughts directly, hit up her web site. And, if you are on a book review site but for some reason prefer those talkies the kids are all raving about, and you’re patient, rumor (and IMDB) suggest that The Night Circus will be a movie sometime within a few years from the time of this writing.

Happy reading, folks, and I’ll see you next time.

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