Night Circus, The

Erin Morgenstern
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 breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, 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 expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2018-10-15

I lingered over this book, not wanting to leave this world. Upon finishing I actually wept. Did not expect that. Such a beautiful and magical book. Definitely one I will reread and give as gifts.

Reviewed: 2018-07-20
3.5
Reviewed: 2018-04-21
The author really loves Cirque De Sole you can tell. The magical circus grows as the the two competitors slowly fall in love.
Reviewed: 2018-02-24
I need some time to think about this one. On the surface, it's a great book. It pulled me, created a world that was vivid and engaging, and the storyline was different and unique. However, there are elements that I didn't like. At times, it felt like too much talking and not enough describing-too toothy, if you will. The story bogged down at mid-point. Easily could have cut characters or let them go sooner to help keep it flowing. One of those, I liked, but... books.
Reviewed: 2017-01-29
Closer to 4.5 stars. Everything about this story truly is enchanting. I just wish the first ~250 pages had been a bit more condensed. It felt like it took a while to actually get caught up in the magic.
Reviewed: 2016-08-26
The Night Circus was first published last September, and was one of the “It Books” at BEA 2011. I managed to get an ARC, and for much of last autumn, I read one glowing review after another...but couldn’t seem to bring myself around to reading the book itself. My interest in it languished until one evening this past spring, in New York City, when I was immersed in the mind-warping theatrical weirdness that is Sleep No More (and which Teresa and (Other) Jenny both describe far better than I can possibly manage)--and learned, in a conversation after the show, that it had inspired Erin Morgenstern’s “Le Cirque des Rêves.” That nugget stuck with me, and when I decided that I wanted to do some seasonally-appropriate reading this month, The Night Circus was on my short list. But it’s a long book, and my “advance” copy is well past its “best by” date anyway, so I chose to read it by ear instead of in print. The audio version of The Night Circus is performed by Jim Dale, who is probably best known for his work on the Harry Potter audiobooks, and therefore has a pretty solid background in otherworldly fiction.[return][return]Morgenstern has a real talent for physical description, and I was impressed by how clearly her words evoked the sights and sounds and people of the circus for me. That said, I'm not sure how I would have perceived them if I HADN'T seen Sleep No More, because my experience with that production definitely influenced what I imagined Le Cirque des Rêves to be like. The story surrounding the circus, however, comes from somewhere else.[return][return]The circus was essentially created as a venue for a competition played out over decades between two people who are the subjects of a bet made by two other people. The bettors, Hector and Alexander, have had a long-standing rivalry based on their different approaches to practicing magic, and have engaged in several challenges by proxy over their long acquaintance, pitting their students against one another. This time, the players are Hector's own daughter, Celia, and Alexander's orphaned ward, Marco. What their teachers don't anticipate is that their subjects will be drawn more toward collaboration than competition, and that will change the game completely.[return][return]The Night Circus' plot is intriguing but not groundbreaking, and the character development isn't particularly deep. The novel's strengths are in its structure--a non-linear narrative moving back and forward in time until it eventually converges, shifting perspectives among several of the characters--and its sense of atmosphere. There's an acceptance of the unexplained that seems to arise both from the magical elements and the greater personal reserve of the novel's Victorian-era setting. I don't think what Morgenstern does here is properly "magical realism," but magic is employed matter-of-factly and is integral to the story, although she's not explicitly dealing with a "magical" world in the Harry Potter sense.[return][return]But the Potter connection is implied, intentionally or not, by the choice of narrator for the audiobook. Based on his reading of The Night Circus, all of those Audie Awards Jim Dale has won are thoroughly deserved, and I think my next reading of the Harry Potter books will be his audio versions.
Reviewed: 2016-06-24
I never expected to like this book. Just from the title I knew it wasn't for me, but so many people spoke highly of the book, so I read some reviews... And my opinion remained the same. This wasn't for me. Nothing about it appealed to me, and so I had no interest in ever reading it. But, it was chosen for my bookclub, and so I read it. Technically. And now I am going to rant about why I wish I hadn't. In detail, which means there's gonna be spoilery stuff, probably.

Here we go:

I don't like reading about circuses or parties or scenes of revelry and dreamlike wonder.
I don't like reading about unrestrained, no-holds-barred magic that is only limited by the imagination of the magician, with no boundaries or explanation of how it works.
I don't like magical realism.
I don't like endless descriptions of every-fucking-thing ever.
I don't like books without a point or plot or reason for existing beyond their own wank.
And I REALLY don't like insta-love and completely unrealistic "love will find a way" stories. (And don't give me crap about it being fantasy either. That's just a shit cop-out for lazy storytelling.)

Annnnnnnd since that's exactly what this book was, it should come as no surprise that I did not enjoy it.

I know. I'll give you a moment for this revelation to settle.

Why hello there, Clock. Fancy meeting you here! ...Are you following me?

Ugh. Reading this (or I should say listening to it- but more on that in a bit) was mind-numbingly tedious and just all around awful. I can't think of a single thing that I enjoyed about this book. I can't even say, "Oh the writing was good" because the writing was so fucking purple that I feel like the Purple People Eater mistakenly ate something that didn't agree with him, perhaps one of the oh-so-interesting guests at Mr. Lefevre's parties, mmm? And then it shat out this book.


He looks pleased with himself.

So we have ENDLESS descriptions of parties, endless descriptions of the food at the parties, and the people at the parties, and the clothes the people at the parties are wearing, and how OH SO EXCLUSIVE the parties are, which is good, because for fucking fuck's sake if I had to endure MORE guest descriptions I think I might really have ice-picked my own face.

Then we have ENDLESS descriptions of the circus, and the tents in the circus, and the ground at the circus, all of the signs at the circus and on the individual tents, and the food at the circus, and the non-tent attractions at the circus, and everything you can imagine at a circus and even 50 things you can't. And let's not stop at one example, or two examples, let's have ALL of the examples. If there's 12 chimes on the CLOCK during the lighting of the bonfire and each corresponds to an arrow fired into the cauldron where the fire will soon be lit, we have to have every last one of them described, in detail, with the seconds leading up to the first chime spelled out too (DRAW, NOTCH, PULL....RELEASE!). Described to the point of brainmush, in fact. Perhaps Erin Morgenstern thinks she's the only person on the planet with any imagination, because her descriptions left absolutely nothing for anyone else to imagine.

Oh, no, I take that back. We get to imagine all the stuff she DIDN'T describe to death... or even bother to include. You know, like the plot. Or the magical education specifics. Or the moves in the OH SO IMPORTANT Challenge (capital C) that is apparently, supposedly, the point of this book's and the circus's existence. We are allowed to imagine that stuff, because, though we're told that they exist, THESE things are apparently not even important enough to warrant any explanation at all. Not when we have super vital things like CLOCKS to describe and hint at incessantly!

Speaking of the Challenge-slash-Duel-slash-Competition thing... Could it have possibly been more lame?

"The first move has occurred. The earth shook and I felt a disturbance in the Force!"
"What was the move? What does it mean? What happens now? Does this mean this story is going to actually start soon?"
"Hmm? What move? OH, hey! Wanna see my dress? Let me describe it to you!..."
"FML. I can't even. I just.... Can't."



And that's the duel, until the point when *gasp* THIRTY YEARS AFTER BEING BOUND TO THE CHALLENGE, they find out what the fucking stakes are... and then they do (wait for it...)

Nothing. The universe does all the work and these two "main characters" just get moved around like chess pieces. Only chess pieces have a purpose, unlike Marco and Celia.

Moving on... I hated the way the story jumped around in time. And I REALLY REALLY hated the lapses into 2nd person narrative to take me inside the circus. I don't like circuses, and especially don't like magical, whimsical circuses of dreams (imagine me saying that with as much disgusted sarcasm as possible). I don't give two craps about the endless tedium tents of the circus, so those parts were boring as hell for me.

I would also love to know how a pregnant woman in the late 19th, early 20th century would know that she's having twin babies, specifically. There was no sonograms back then, no ultrasounds to show Mom and Dad their little bun(s) in the oven, so short of X-ray vision, or some sort of precognition (which seems more likely), there's no way that anyone could have known. But no explanation is given for that little tidbit. We're just supposed to say, "OK then!" and let our eyes glaze over with the next 15 or 20 mentions of clocks, I guess.

And then there's Jim Dale, who read the audio. I just can't stand him. I just can't. His voice and reading style make me angry. I hate when readers have to do the voices and can't let characters speak for themselves. He gave these characters voices that completely clashed with my impressions of them, and it was distracting. Not that any of the characters were truly remarkable on their own, but I'd rather them be unremarkable than memorable for being a distraction from their own story.

But, speaking of characters, I didn't care about any of them. At all. Literally. I couldn't have cared less if an enormous sinkhole opened up and swallowed up the entire circus. No big loss. None of the characters were real enough for me to care about. Oh, we're told all about their personalities and whatnot, but for all Morgenstern's showing of everything else, her characterization leaves quite a lot to be desired.
Marco apparently thinks it's OK to lead on his girlfriend for years, while cheating on her RIGHT UNDER HER NOSE... but that's OK, because he just erases those memories. No harm, no foul!

Celia is just a Mary Sue. I actually forgot that "the illusionist" was her sometimes, because both could have been anyone. There's absolutely nothing interesting about her at all. Her magical abilities aren't a substitution for personality, you know.

Celia doesn't even say Marco's name until the last 3rd of the book, and then only at his specific request. But I'm supposed to believe they are in love. Uh huh.

But they have to be in love, otherwise the Love Shall Overcome deus ex machina trope that needs to die a horrible painful death would be out of place! Can't figure out how to legitimately get out of the corner you wrote yourself into? It doesn't matter! As long as the two Insta-Lovebirds are together, nothing can harm them or happen to them. The universe will (apparently) conspire to bring about the one solution that will be timed perfectly (know what shows the time? CLOCKS.) and will make EVERYONE a winner. Because everyone gets their reward if they just show up and then give up. Whenever there's a winner, there's also a loser, and losers are sad. The universe won't let you be sad, so it'll change EVERYTHING around to make sure everyone's a winner! No hurt feelings here!

You'd think, that by the end, the glorious, long-awaited end, I'd have known better than to assume that there would be a proper ending, or any kind of sacrifice or trial or... broken nails or even a dirty dress or SOMETHING. Nah. Silly me. The end was so ridiculously "perfect", and fell together so effortlessly, that the ridiculousness actually cost me IQ points.

What was the point of enduring reading this book? It has nothing to say except the tired "If you just love ENOUGH, you can do anything" shit that only tweens actually believe.

So. There's no point, endless, tedious descriptions of things I couldn't care less about, the lamest conflict EVAR, and insta-love to boot.


I wish I could give this negative stars.
Reviewed: 2016-05-31

Celia and Marco are young magicians who live in a world that doesn’t believe in real magic. They have been trained since childhood to take part in a strange competition put together by their mentors. They do not know what the competition is about or what the win conditions are. The only certainty is the venue: the Night Circus, a fantastical black and white circus where they will test their skills. But there is one more thing that the competitors do not know: that they might fall in love.

This is another book that has been so consistently heaped with praise that I had to read it for myself. I did enjoy it, but I was not enamored of it. I reveled in the descriptions of the circus itself with its improbable acts, strange design, and indulgent food. But I found that while I had a lot of fun when I was reading the book, after I had finished and thought about the plot and characters, the magic was broken. Nothing held up solidly under scrutiny.

 The narrative has a bevy of fascinating side characters, but the two main characters (especially Marco) were not sufficiently developed for me to feel any real investment in their relationship. Another problem I had was with the narrative structure. The story is told through a few different timelines. For the most part it was okay, but it sometimes led to unnecessary overlaps and repetition which threw me out of the story’s flow. And finally, while the book toys with some interesting questions (that I don’t want to spoil), it never really grapples with them in a satisfactory way; for me this made the ending seem hollow.

I may read this again, but I admit that I’ll probably skip the story and go straight to visiting the circus.

"
Reviewed: 2016-02-06
I was very intrigued by this book. I enjoyed it immensely, but there were some parts that were kind of slow. The beginning learning about the background of the circus was a bit boring. It did pick up and I was addicted by the end. The challenge that was the main plot of the book was confusing because there didn't seem to be rules, but there seemed to be a ton of rules. The rules seemed a bit arbitrary, but the main characters seemed to be breaking the rules sort of. It just wasn't very well defined, and I'm still not sure if I understood the challenge. The ending was great. I'd like to see another book about the Night Circus but with Widget, Poppet, and Bailey's lives instead of focussing on Celia and Marco.
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