Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Rating: ★★★★

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there. When yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breath-taking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Reves, and it is only open at night. But, behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway – a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood for this purpose. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one person can be left standing as the circus provides the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be with someone experiencing this book for the first time. If I could read a book forever, it would be this book. There is something magical about it that I can’t quite explain with words. Almost like the magic of the circus is jumping off the page, enveloping me in its story.

Erin Morgenstern’s writing is so beautiful. She builds the world so vividly with lyrical descriptions that flow, gorgeous wordplay that twists your emotions, making you both cry and laugh simultaneously. You can envision the circus and it’s attractions from the very first page, stirring my imaginations in a way everyone craves when they pick up a book.

Image Credit and Artwork: @Rosiethorns$$ via Tumblr

While not character-driven in the slightest, the novel still made me love every single character and believe me, there are a lot of them. Usually, I would be put off and overwhelmed by the vast amount of different people and stories to follow. However, Morgenstern does a brilliant job of developing them all – each one being multifaceted and morally ambiguous that you are drawn into their tales. I can’t say which are my favourite because there’s parts I love of each, but Widge and Poppet were so pure that my heart couldn’t not fall in love with them. I would love to wander the circus with them and Bailey. Every single night.

Plot wise, this is not a romance. There is a love story in it, because of course, there always has to be with fantasy novels. My mistake was that I went in imagining to be swept off my feet from page one and it didn’t happen until page 300. If you remove this expectation, you’ll have a much better reading experience. What relationship there is, however, is developed, built up slowly and eloquently so that it is incredibly believable. These two characters who are meant to be enemies, not soul mates fall irrevocably and hopelessly in love, with a connection unimaginable, you cannot help but root for them.

“People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see.”

So, if not a romance, what is it? If we must box it into something, The Night Circus is a novel of atmosphere. The ambiance surrounding the circus is palpable – it would be difficult to read this novel and not want to attend such a mysterious and intriguing event. It is dream-like, captivating, all round enticing. However, I do desperately wish there was more to the competition. There’s no sense of urgency or true rivalry, no fear of the consequences of losing that that part of the plot slightly falls flat, losing the potential it had to begin with.

In addition, I must criticise the pace of the novel. It is incredibly slow-paced. While I wanted to bask in the descriptions, I was also begging for the plot to move forward. And while the time jumps are incredibly intriguing, they make the reading experience quite a tad confusing at times. However, once you finish the book, you realise these juxtaposing feelings are what Morgenstern intends. She plays with you and you never really understand the true extent of it until the final page. The strings weave together right until the characters and the circus find a little place, a little crook in your heart to stay in forever.

Image Credit: Tara Spruit Art via Tumblr

Just like Herr Thiessen, I shall forever be a Reveur, a dreamer who looks at The Night Circus with wide eyes, getting lost in the intoxicating world of the impossible. I will wear my red scarf and explore the mysteries of this novel once more, if not countless times, matching the countless tents I can only hope to enter. This book is proof that magic does exist as every word blows up your brain. There’s something special and rare about The Night Circus and I will treasure the reading experience dearly, hoping that one day, I will be able to follow the circus from location to location, like the characters in this book.

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