[697]: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Strange, imaginative and intricately plotted.


The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern

One of the hazards of reading and reviewing a book such as The Night Circus is it renders one’s reviewing ability virtually useless. It’s a good thing and a bad thing. For one, piecing together a coherent take on the book is an arduous task. For another, it’s a shot at your already frail capacity to write a review in the first place. To top it off, The Night Circus was very vague in a lot of aspects. So the chances drawing blanks while writing the review is considerably high.

Still, I can say in all honesty, that this book is highly imaginative, however strange. Though it’s tough to follow sometimes because the timeline jumps sporadically. And the fact that the train arrives without warning at the most random places adds to that confusion. The train itself is magical, obviously. It carries the performers who possessed some otherworldly abilities recruited by the mysterious founder.

At the core of this novel is a love story between two protégés caught in between two competing magicians. But the romance lacks intensity so it takes a backseat throughout the novel. The two magicians seem immortal, pitting one protege against the other over the years. The mechanics of the game wasn’t clear, which is frustrating for the most part. The object was to beat each other, of course. As to the genesis and end game, Ms. Morgenstern was not very forthcoming.

The world of The Night Circus is magical in the literal sense. Besides the fact that the train travels like the wind (swift as the speed of sound), Celia and Marco have the strangest ability to manipulate thoughts, stop time, and even dabble in telekinesis. You have a fortune teller whose accuracy is uncanny, and kids who speak to animals. But is there anything more magical than love? Ms. Morgenstern explores the dark relationships between the children and their minders. Most of them were taken when they were young then cared for by their guardians. But it is love? Like that of a parent to their child? Celia’s relationship with her father was tenuous at best, volatile for the most part. Marco didn’t fare any better. In the end, it was hard to decipher who was manipulating whom.

There is a star-crossed element to the romance between Marco and Celia. Besides the fact that their masters are mortal enemies, the result of the competition ends in the loser’s death.  Quitting the game is no easy task. It’s almost as if the contest is set up so the competing magicians fall in love, so to win the game also means it’s at the expense of the person they love. That should be enough to titillate the most ardent romance readers, but sadly, the thrill just wasn’t there.

Morgenstern’s writing is very polished but because it’s set in the 1800s, I can’t help but feel that the emotions were restricted. It’s formal, regimented, and unfortunately, very cold at times. I would like to read more of her other works, though. But I would like to wait and see something other than this historical/magical realism/fantasy hybrid.

  • Awesome review Joy 🙂 But uugh, I’m sorry this book wasn’t all that awesome : I tried reading it once, years ago, but had to DNF, because of how boring it was.. and because of the time jumps :p Not for me, haha. Though some parts sounds interesting 🙂 I’m glad you didn’t hate all of it. <3

  • I’ve been meaning to read this one myself. It sounds interesting, despite the strangeness to it.

  • I read this way back when it first came out and loved the magical atmosphere and themes. I do remember it being dry at times or maybe formalish. I’ve thought seriously about a reread this year. It sounds like you liked the magic and atmosphere (yay) at least. (:

  • Doesn’t sound like a like it’s one for me. I don’t think I would enjoy the authors style of writing from what you said and I usually like weird but this one doesn’t sound that good to me. Good review for a book you found hard to review!

  • Gah, I have been debating on this ebook for a week now! It always pops up in my recommendations when I’m browsing the Kindle store, and now I’ve made my decision. It is definitely my type of read, as I love the way the magic sounds.

  • I’ve been looking at this one forever, it seems a little intimidating, but maybe it’s also because I’m not the biggest fan of circus and not sure how I will handle it in writing, but I like the whimsical part of it.

  • A few people have recommended this to me. The circus isn’t really my favorite setting but I was told it’s really good. Still unsure but your feedback regarding her writing style might be worth my while despite it reflecting the times down to how restrained people are when it comes to feelings

  • Karen

    I’ve had this book on my shelf for YEARS. I really need to read it one of these days. I think I’ll feel the same as you and that’s probably why I’ve waited so long.

    Karen @For What It’s Worth

  • I remember when this book came out, it was everywhere. People seemed to either love it or hate it. Given your review, I can see why. It never fully drew me in with the synopsis because I was always left wondering what the book was exactly about. Sounds like that is pretty much the contents of the book, leaves you scratching your head wondering the whys and hows behind certain things. I will still give this book a try but I’ll borrow it from the library instead of purchasing it. Great review!

  • I remember absolutely loving this book when I read it! I wasn’t so interested in the romance aspect, but got completely swept up in the ideas of the circus itself.

    Stephanie Jane @ Literary Flits

  • Sounds pretty interesting. Books like that can be so hard to write reviews. You did a great job.

    Melanie @ Hot Listens & Rabid Reads

  • Great review, Joy! I enjoyed this book for the most part. It was fun to read around Halloween. I’m definitely interested in seeing what the author does next.

  • nickimags

    Great view! I really struggled with this book when I read it back in 2011, and was so surprised by all the 5 star reviews. re

    • nickimags

      Sorry for the typo this is a great review for a book I really struggled with when I read it back in 2011. I remember being so surprised by all the 5 star reviews on Goodreads and wondering whether we’d read the same book.

  • oh wow…this sounds very intriguing with the magical train and the circus even though the romance takes a back seat I would definitely be interested in grabbing this one up.

  • Jazmen

    As many times as I have seen this book around, I have no desire whatsoever to read it. I’m not too attracted to the whole circus theme, so despite the fact that it sounds pretty good–I’m going to have to pass Joy. But, your review is wonderful! 🙂

  • As I’m reading your review Joy I kept longing for an intense passionate romance between the two characters, something forbidden and all encompassing. Whhhhhhhhy cruel.world. it sounds weirdly wonderful but when you have books that are lyrically lovely but a bit twisted, I want to swoon my ass off. Fabulous review darling girl, I’m still glad you were able to enjoy it <3

  • Jasprit

    From your review this book highly reminds me of the film The Prestige and the two rival magicians, its a film which I absolutely loved! So if that alone doesn’t convince me to pick this book up asap, I don’t know what else could! I’m sorry however that you weren’t able to enjoy this one a bit more, gorgeous review as always Joy!

  • Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    I’ve been wanting to read this for a long time so sorry it didn’t quite live up to the hype for you! I probably will still read it at some point, just with lowered expectations. Thanks for an honest and helpful review, Joy!

  • I’ve been eyeing this book and while I’m still not sure if it’s a book for me or not, I kind of want to try it. Although I doubt I’ll be able to get to it because of my large TBR list. but still, Night Circus is one of those books I’m sooo curious to try.

  • I’ve been curious about this one and have had it on the TBR for a while. Maybe I’ll check it out!

  • I just need to read this book! I really don’t know why I haven’t read it yet. I love strange little stories and I think that I will enjoy it. I am sorry that this was a bit better for you. Great review!

  • I have this book on my shelf, but for some reason I’ve been afraid to pick it up. I’m not a fan of the formal, regimented style of writing you describe, so I think that’s holding me back. One of these days …

  • What is funny is that the confusion of it all makes me want to read it more. I also love magical realism and while I don’t like that it felt cold at times (for me magical realism is supposed to be the opposite) your review still has me intrigued. One day I’ll get this one off my wishlist.

  • I really loved this book when I read this as a teen, but honestly I think many things went over my head at the time. I hope to reread it at some point (and hopefully still come to love it!)

  • I have really heard an awful lot about this book. Everyone recommends it to me, but no one can really describe it. I feel as if I have to read it to be able to really understand it! I am going to be reading it, and hopefully some of these vague ideas can fill in for me.

  • One of these days I’ll get this read. It’s been on my wishlist at overdrive for eternity!

  • RO

    As always, your review is always on point, but I’m not sure I’d connect with this one. Hugs…

  • I tried it on audio, that did not work for me

  • I remember reading this book and I loved it, but I honestly couldn’t tell you what it was about now. Guess I’ll have to give it a re-read, it has been years!

  • I remember reading this book when it was released but even if I don’t remember the story at all, I remember not loving it as much as some. But I liked it.

  • I had a really hard time getting into this one, so I set it aside. Writing like the one here very rarely works for me, so I wasn’t surprised. I’m glad that you liked it however despite some issues, Joy! Great review!

  • Yay I’m so glad you read this one! I loved the atmospheric and magical setting and some of the concepts in the novel, although I agree it was pretty vague at times.

  • Aw, c’mon, Joy! This one of my favorite books! You’re supposed to express your undying love for it. 😉

  • Ha, this is one of my favourite books, but I read it like 4 years ago – think I’m due for a reread! I totally get your criticisms though – it is quite restrained in some ways, and there are many things that are left for the reader to fill in, which isn’t always a great idea.