Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Page count: 512 (paperback)
Rating: 4/5 stars
*this review is mostly spoilerfree save for some references to parts of the circus. Enter at own risk.
“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 both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.”
I bought the Night Circus a while ago after seeing some booktubers on YouTube talk about how great this book is. Checking the reviews on Goodreads gave me some good hope as well (although I have learned the hard way not to mix good reviews with “100% certainty I`ll like this book” because no). It sounded interesting, there were a lot of positive reviews, so I bought it.
I can`t say I was super disappointed, though I can`t say it`s one of my new favourites either.
First up, some of the good parts of this book. One thing it definitely had going for it, was the intricate world-building. It was written strangely believable for a book about magic. It was intricate, detailed, creative, and very original. The circus functioned almost as a character of its own instead of the setting of the story. I could really see all the scenes described in the book, from the cloud maze to the white fire to the twins teaching the kittens new tricks with surprising ease.
And there we hit the first problem I had with the book: yes it`s intricate and beautifully written, but I felt that sometimes it was done at the cost of the story and the characters. New tents and new performers kept showing up to a point where it got dizzying, and it felt like sometimes new things were introduced for the sake of being there and being pretty and ~mysterious~ without adding anything to the story.
The characters often felt quite flat to me. What do they like? What don`t they like? Why do they all feel like caricatures? Why do Widget and Poppet`s parents just exist when the twins are born and seem to disappear afterwards? It felt like there was a lot of potential in this book that hasn`t come to fruition fully, as if there are still a lot of loose ends.
So who do I recommend this book to?
I recommend this for everyone who doesn`t want high literature, but who appreciates beautiful stories with magic anyway. It`s a fairly easy read, nothing too high-brow or complicated, but smart nonetheless. If you just want a world to get lost in for a bit without getting ethical lessons or life lessons, this book is for you.
One note for those who want to read it: take good notice of the year numbers above the new chapters. They are important to the story. I didn`t pay attention to them for a while because I usually skip over those kinds of things anyway, because I`m lazy like that, but I got very confused several times.
Overall, it`s a good book, entertaining while it lasts, though it doesn`t have that lingering impression when you put it down like good books often have. If it sounds interesting to you though, go for it!
I, for one, have good hopes for the author to write even better and more intriguing books in the future, books that I will definitely be checking out.