Review: The Night Circus

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Dreamlike” is the best adjective for this book about magic, secrets, and the wonders of the circus. Though the circus is rendered exclusively in black and white and shades of grey, The Night Circus bursts with color. The descriptions are truly the best part, capturing the allure of the circus, the vividness of life, and the way our struggles can make us feel. It’s a scrumptious read particularly suited to a cold winter’s night and a warm fire.

Erin Morgenstern’s tale follows two ancient, rival magicians who sign up two children for a life-long “game.” Without even explaining the “rules” of this game, or the point, or the stakes, the two children–Celia and Marco–learn magic. When they come of age, the arena for the game is set: a circus like no other. This circus, Le Cirque des Rêves (Circus of Dreams) operates only at night, is exclusively decorated in black, white, and greys, and features performances beyond Barnum & Bailey and the restrictions of reality. It is also a platform for the contest of wills between Celia and Marco.

But the original magicians don’t realize that their competitors are actually more similar than different, and what is intended as a fight turns into an all-consuming love, a love that imperils everyone who becomes ensnared in the circus.

The descriptions of late 1880-early 1900 America and Europe, the possibilities created by a circus without limits, the lush designs and ideas: these I love. I hope The Night Circus is someday made into a film, but the only suitable directors would be a) Terry Gilliam, b) Baz Luhrman, or c) Tim Burton, in that order. Those are the only directors I can see capturing the visual scope and detail Morgenstern puts out, so head’s up, guys.

However, I struggled with the plot. The first third of the novel just didn’t capture me, and with even the character’s names not being determined until later in the book–and not knowing what the game is or what the stakes may be–it was hard to “root” for anyone. The story moves forwards and backwards and sideways in time, making it a little confusing to follow. So it takes awhile for The Night Circus to work its magic on you–but magical it is.

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