Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review: The Night Circus by 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 RĂªves, 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.

This is a story about a circus, and a man and a woman, and immortality, and consequences, and sense and sensibility, and being a pawn in someone else's games, and magic (of course there is magic), and love, which is a kind of magic. But more than anything it is a story about life, where everything is connected and where everything we do today is a part of where we will end up tomorrow, and where there is only one ending to the game.
This book didn't captivate me immediately but rather grew on me. At first I thought that first and second person narration was getting on my nerves, and that the jumping around in place and time was too hard to follow. Then the former made me feel as if I were part of the story and the latter became almost a game of figuring out when the "you" parts were set. And then it was all clear and when for the very first time I saw the different narrator's stories coming together like branches on a tree all connecting to the trunk a delicious shiver ran through me and I knew that this was going to be just the right kind of book to keep me up at night. Which it most marvelously did.
For some reason before I picked it up I thought that this was a YA novel, which probably has something to do with the cover blurb about young magicians. Yet from the very first pages it was obvious that a YA novel it is not. For starters the main characters aren't all that young, the story is more elaborate than it is in your average YA novel, there are too many variables for the book to be straightforward, and nobody has any doubts as to their own identity (although I questioned the identities of a few characters, and still do), so there is no point in journeys of self-discovery. Finally the very style of writing and the language put it firmly in the adult category, or at least new adult, which has recently emerged.
There aren't any spells and the mechanics of magic aren't revealed enough for people to start putting magical formulas on t-shirts, because after all the spells aren't that important here, there are matters much more pressing than knowing how exactly the heroine makes her dress change color. I did love though that those who are capable of doing magic in this novel are the quiet, bookish types, who will get lost in a library on purpose. I also loved how great a role books played in the story, I think all bibliophiles will get a thrill out of that. And those who belong to any kind of fandom will be delighted to see themselves and their peers in this story. Fandoms are not to be underestimated and Morgenstern takes a close and intimate look at this phenomenon. Something tells me she herself belongs to one.
There are so many things I want to add but they would be so terribly spoilerish that I think I will stop here and will only tell you one last thing: I borrowed this novel from the library because I tend to not re-read books, but as I turned the last page I knew that I had to get a copy for my collection because for me this one is a keeper.


  1. ohh i thought it was a YA too u know.....and it was definitely a thrilling read.

    great review

    Le' Grande Codex

  2. Glad to see you enjoyed this one as well. I loved the beautiful imagery!


  3. I agree about this one growing on you. I was so skeptical of this book at first, but by the end, I was raving about it. Easily one of my favorites of the last few years. Great review!

  4. I'm another one who hasn't read this one yet. I have to admit that I'm afraid of the fantasy aspect of the story. If you liked it, maybe I should give it a try.