Only Erin Morgenstern could make me smile so much with just ‘The circus arrives without warning‘.
Name: The Night Circus
Author: 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.
Synopsis from Goodreads
I had HIGH expectations of The Night Circus. Last year, I read Morgenstern’s second novel, The Starless Sea, and just fell in love with her writing style. Before that, I’d been an ardent reader of young adult romance… and that was about it. I guess I can thank COVID for giving me so much time to fill that I really broadened the genres of books I read, and I haven’t looked back (goodbye John Green!). So The Starless Sea was my first real exposure to quality fantasy writing – and believe me when I say that these books are quality fantasy writing.
The Night Circus follows, well, a circus throughout its development, running, and the lives of its perfomers. It also shows the perspective of the people who visit the circus, which I really enjoyed. But the circus is also the site of a game of manipulation and magic between Marco and Celia who (inevitably 🙄) fall in love. This idea of a ‘game’ is referenced throughout the book and I really enjoyed all the metaphors and this different fantasy angle.
There are so many different plots throughout the book. I think Erin Morgenstern loves to build up seperate storylines that you think are going to amount to everything but end up meaning little at all. This got a bit confusing in The Starless Sea but there isn’t quite the same intense volume of stories present here. Not to say there wasn’t a lot!
Sometimes I’d forget about these little stories or think they’re a bit boring, but then remember them later and think OH! So if that’s them… then who’s that?… When I was only halfway through, I had a strong urge to reread the entire book again to try and fully appreciate all the storylines!
In a way, I feel like you need to read the majority of the book before you can begin to really enjoy it. In the beginning, I thought it was dragging a little and I was too busy trying to get my head around this world to actually… look at the world. To fully appreciate the story, to be able to back up the story with previous knowledge and world building, you need to have read a good chunk of the book. However, even on top of that, I thought it took a while to get going.
Additionally, I’m really struggling to find quotes. There’s nothing that really stood out to me, the whole thing was just remarkable. But I think that reflects the entire book – it was all brilliant but very steady! There was no build up to a peak, just a lot of very nice description. And whilst that works fine for a lot of books and people, I just wanted a bit more especially with a romance aspect to it.
Finally, the ending felt a bit abrupt. Marco and Celia had been playing this game for 20 years and over 450 pages, but the actual conclusion was very short. And confusing. Up until that point, I’d survived pretty well with clarity. Obviously, most aspects of a circus are pretty every-day, but it would have been nice if tarot cardswere explained proeperly! I know the basic concept but there’d be a dramatic ending to a story that was like then the eNcHaNtReSs cArD was pulled out! and I’m left here asking what does that meannnnn?
But apart from minor gripes, this was an extremely well written book. I think I’m always going to prefer the book I read first (find my review of the Starless Sea here), but I’d recommend The Night Circus to anyone who loves fantasy. Once I hit the point where the story took off, it flew. Even if it did take half the book to get there. But let’s go back to my nice bird metaphor 🙂