Book Review

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Publisher: Anchor
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 528
Format: Paperback
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My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary

The Night Circus tells the story of a mysterious circus that arrives without warning. Le Cirque Des Rêves (The Circus of Dreams) is only open at night, and the wonders inside seem truly magical. From the delectable treats to the performers and tents, every aspect of the circus seems to delight and defy reality at every turn. Of course, few know what is really occurring behind the scenes.

Celia and Marco have been engaged in a duel for most of their lives. Entered into a competition by their vindictive guardians when they were children, they know little about the contest—including the rules, the goal, and against whom they are competing. All they do know is the venue, a circus wherein they can showcase their abilities as illusionists and magicians.

Thoughts

One of the first words that comes to mind when I try to describe this book is enchanting. Morgenstern weaves a narrative that seamlessly blends what appear to be unrelated storylines with an elegance that seems to reflect the winding paths of the circus itself. A large cast of characters are introduced right off the bat, and it seems impossible that all of their stories can be treated with the same level of importance. Doing the impossible, however, is a specialty of the titular circus, and the book makes a serious (if not entirely successful) attempt to bring you deep into these characters’ lives. An especially captivating touch comes from the occasional passages in the second person: you truly become the person experiencing the wonders housed within Le Cirque Des Rêves. The descriptions of the circus itself is also deeply captivating: from the intoxicating smell of apple cider to the wonderfully-disorienting layout of the circus tents, you’ll find yourself mesmerized and, like the Rêveurs—the self-dubbed devoted followers of the circus—eager to explore more.

It’s worth noting that the actual plot of the book can be a bit slow to progress in some places, but the aforementioned descriptions do much to keep the reader’s attentions during these stagnant moments. One drawback of the large number of characters included in the story is the subsequent lack of characterization as a whole. Aside from the main duo of the novel, Celia and Marco, many characters are not given special attention or notice. A notable exception to this rule is found in the character of Bailey and the young circus twins he befriends, Poppet and Widget. It is also worth noting that the book is divided into many (many) chapters—each segment is only about a few pages long. While this division makes the book easy to read in pieces during a busy time (midterms, anyone?), I cannot stress enough the importance of noting the identifying information at the beginning of each chapter—namely the year. The contents of the story span a few decades, from the inception of the circus to the conclusion of the competition between Celia and Marco.

Perhaps my favorite thing about this story comes from the family created by everyone involved in the circus. As a close-knit community formed by the performers themselves, it’s touching to see the circus grow to something greater than itself, something that makes dreamers everywhere feel seen and understood by. This is perhaps most clearly seen in Bailey, who sees the circus as an escape from his dull life on a rural farm, and Herr Friedrick Thiessen, the clockmaker who creates a cult-following from his captivating publications about the circus. At its core, beyond the magic and mystery, The Night Circus is about family, and the bonds that we form when we are allowed to truly be ourselves. The love shown by the characters to one another—and to the circus itself—is the true magic at work, and serves as an inspiration to dreamers everywhere.

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