Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Rating: 5 out of 5 chocolates

Before I start off this review, I would just like to let the little fan girl in me out:


There. Now I can resume in a more business-like manner. On to the review proper.

When I was a toddler, my father used to sell cotton candy and multi-coloured, flavoured popcorn at circuses. So one of my earliest memories is of holding my mother’s hand on a chilly evening, as we were walking towards dad’s stall, passing by bright lights and big, yellow and red striped tents. It’s a fleeting image, like a very short video clip. Whenever I recall this, the first thing that hits me is the sense of excitement I had felt at the time - the kind of excitement that trails shivers down your spine, sets your heart racing in anticipation and leaves your lungs fit to burst with joy.

That was exactly the kind of excitement I felt while I was reading Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. From the very first sentence, I was hooked.

“The circus arrives without warning.”

The story begins in 1873 and spans the course of 30 years, following Celia and Marco as they are raised and trained by rival magicians and culminates in “… a deadly contest, forced to test the very limits of the imagination, and of their love…”, as written on the book blurb.

The fantastic imagery had me enchanted. Morgenstern’s descriptions made the scenery nearly tangible. You can practically feel the cold from the Ice Garden, just about taste the delectable caramel drizzled popcorn, virtually see the contortionist twist herself into a glass box, all but hear the collective gasp from the crowd with every illusion described, almost smell the various heady scents from the sunken garden.

The Night Circus’s strength definitely lies in its powerful imagery. Plot-wise though, there are a few snags. For instance, more than half the book is finished by the time any romance blossoms between Marco and Celia, when several book blurbs indicate that the story is centred around their relationship with each other. Their ‘deadly contest’ is never fully explained. The story falls a little short in delivering the fierce duels it promises. There were also a lot of backwards and forwards time jumps, which I thought was unnecessary, as the story could have still flowed if chapters were rearranged carefully.

Character-wise, there seemed to be a lot of superfluous ones. The Burgess twins, Madame Padva, even one of the main supporting ones, Isobel, doesn’t seem to contribute much to the story. And there were some interesting choices, such as Bailey. He is seen in a vision by one of the main characters and is purported to play an integral role to the circus’s future, but it is written in a scene between Bailey, Celia and Marco that it could have easily been someone else. However, the antagonists are absolutely, deliciously evil. You cannot help but feel waves of hatred towards Hector Bowen, Celia’s father. Mr. A. H— is equally loathsome. Poppet, Widget and Herr Thiessen are supporting characters that you cannot help but love.

The Night Circus has more than enough charms to help you forget the aforementioned flaws. If you plan to read this book, and I highly recommend that you do, look out for the scene with the jars. It is so creative and beautiful, like the rest of the book. The minute I put down the book after reading the last page, I wanted to pick it up and read it all over again, and get lost in the world that Morgenstern has created.


  1. I can't wait to read this one!! Great Review!!

    ♥ Melissa @ Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf

  2. Same as Melissa - I can't wait to read this one either! Thanks for the review! Isn't it a wonderful feeling when the author replies to your tweet!

  3. Love the opening line - I'm going to have to check into this book!

  4. How exciting about the tweet!! I would be thrilled too!! Just like the others, CANNOT wait to read this one! And what an excellent review you have written.

    Megan @ Storybook Love Affair


  5. Great review once again Toni! I just slapped my forehead for missing this when I have been wanting to read your review about this book more than the others. I admire your honesty; despite the fact that you love The Night Circus very much, this did not stop you from emphasizing weak points. All the same, like the others, I want to read this myself.

  6. This book looks really good. I love books that center around a circus. I think it is the theater person in me. I just finished Dreamland Social Club which was also really cool and set on Coney Island so there was this whole circus feel to it.