The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Page Count: 512
Original Publication Date: 2011
Genre(s): Fantasy, Fiction
The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
When Celia and Marco are only children, they are chosen to be the players of a deadly game. With the circus as the venue, the two are forced into a duel of impossible magic. One, the beautiful illusionist captivating audiences each night from inside the circus; the other, just a nobody, the assistant to the creator of the circus who does not even travel with the troupe. The two cannot end the game until one is left standing. But their instructors did not think the players would fall in love, a love that could destroy not only themselves but everyone around them. It is a game of chess, and every piece is at stake. For Celia and Marco, love might be more powerful than the magic they’ve been forced to learn their entire lives.
I have never been to the circus. Not in real life, anyway. After having read The Night Circus, I feel like I have been to the circus, and a real-life circus would just disappoint me now. I chose the book for Book Club 2.0’s November read. Because of its length, and how busy December gets, I assume we won’t discuss it until mid-January or even February. I didn’t want to wait that long to review the book, so this time I’m reviewing it before our discussion.
The Night Circus is a whirlwind of a book. It’s divided into 5 parts and told in various time periods, perspectives, locations, and POVs. It makes for a confusing read for the first hundred pages or so. With so much going on and so many things to introduce, it also makes for a slow start. In fact, I was a little disappointed with the first part of the book. The Night Circus received so much hype over the years, and it takes a hundred pages or so for that hype to finally come into play. But once the story is set in motion, it’s so good you can’t stop reading.
For me, the best parts were the interactions between Celia and Marco. As soon as they started interacting with each other, my heart exploded. THEY ARE THE LIFEBLOOD OF THIS STORY. Their romance gave me tingles. Their dialogue also gave me tingles, and had me laughing, crying, and gasping. They are written so beautifully and tragically, Celia and Marco. They are one of those couples that just steal my heart and don’t give it back. Which of course caused me a lot of stress as I needed a happy ending. But I won’t spoil that for you.
Though Celia and Marco are the two characters in a duel for their lives, they aren’t necessarily the “main characters.” Like I said, the story bounces back and forth between tons of characters. The Celia/Marco storylines are definitely my favorite and are indeed central to the story, but I’d argue all the other various characters are just as essential to telling the whole story. And though there are so many characters, none of them are background or half-imagined characters; they are all flushed out and have their own personalities. The ones who seem to be the least important could easily become the most crucial characters in the end.
As for the writing, I loved it. It was a little description-heavy, but with so many places and time periods and detailed circus tents, it’s probably a bad idea to be vague about that kind of stuff. The world created in these 500 pages is a beautiful one. The circus is like nothing I could ever imagine. I really enjoyed Morgenstern’s narrative and am beyond excited for her next book.
Though the book is long and starts slow, it truly deserves its hype. There are many pieces to the story that seem haphazard and chaotic at first, but as the story picks up, the transitions between people and places and times become seamless, and it becomes evident how necessary it all is to the whole of the story. If you’re feeling a bit bogged down with the first one or two parts, just keep pushing—it’s worth it.
Also, Merry Christmas, everyone.
–“People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see.”
–“It is difficult to see a situation for what it is when you are in the midst of it. It is too familiar. Too comfortable.”
–“The breaking is the easy part. The pulling back together is the problem.”
–“It is important. Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words.”