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Erin Morgenstern – The Night Circus

September 14, 2011

112. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (2011)

Length: 390 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Started: 27 August 2011
Finished: 01 September 2011

Where did it come from? From the publishers for review.
Why do I have it? The combination of the gorgeous cover, a blurb from Audrey Niffenegger, and the echoes of The Prestige in the summary.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 28 June 2011.

Running away to
join the circus suddenly
sounds more appealing.

Summary: Le Cirque des Rêves arrives suddenly in town, its wrought-iron gates opening only at nightfall. Inside its multitude of black-and-white striped tents, visitors will find all manner of fantastical exhibitions that defy belief and spark imagination. But what the casual visitor will never realize is that the circus is actually the center of a vast magician’s duel. Years ago, two master magicians made a wager, and pitted their protégées against each other in an arcane game whose rules remain obscure, even to its participants. Within the realm of the circus, Celia and Marco spur each other on to even greater feats of magical accomplishment, but their growing attraction to each other threatens to change the course of the game… with unknowable consequences for everyone whose lives have become linked to the circus.

Review: There are books that are so absorbing that as soon as they end, I want to immediately start over at the beginning, just so I don’t have to leave the world they’ve spun around me. That was absolutely the case with The Night Circus; the world that Morgenstern builds is so vivid that you can smell the caramel and popcorn in the air, and so immediately appealing that I would happily spend my life wandering the circus, visiting tent after tent, lost in its secrets. Le Cirque des Rêves is an incredibly imaginative and superbly realized setting for a novel; it’s the circus you always wanted the circus to be.

Luckily, the story is almost as compelling as the setting – although, in many ways, because of the link between the magicians’ game and the circus, the setting is the story. The plot is never straightforward, but winding and looping through time, with diversions and side stories that of course turn out not to be unrelated at all. The plot’s admittedly a slow build, with Marco and Celia not even realizing their feelings for each other until at least half way through, and then the back half of the book happens all in a rush… but the story is so enchanting that whenever one part of the plot slowed down, there was always something else to catch my interest. I actually wound up more involved in the story of Bailey (a visitor to the circus) and Poppet (one of the lion tamers’ twins, born on the night that the circus opened) than I was in Celia and Marco’s story, but by the end, everything was woven together so seamlessly that they barely count as separate storylines.

The words “dreamlike” and “magical” and “enchanting” get thrown around a lot, but I cannot think of any better descriptors for this book. I’m docking it half a point for some uneven pacing, but on the whole it held me completely captivated; it’s one of those phenomenal books that makes me so glad I’m a reader. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Ooooh, highly recommended for just about everybody. Even if you think fantasy is not your thing, give The Night Circus the chance to sweep you away and change your mind.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Alison’s Book Marks, Book Monkey, Fantasy Book Critic, Good Books and Good Wine, Hooked on Books, and more at the book blog search engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: The circus arrives with warning.

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46 Comments leave one →
  1. September 14, 2011 9:45 am

    I loved this book! Glad you enjoyed it, too!

  2. September 14, 2011 10:22 am

    I would totally do anything to eat the food in The Night Circus, it all sounded so good.

    And yes, I LOVED the story of Bailey and Poppet. Bailey was definitely one of my favorites.

    • September 19, 2011 8:51 am

      April – The more I think about it, the more I think I should have included Widget in there too. Because I love Bailey and Poppet, but there’s something about the three of them wandering the circus together that I just loved extra-hard.

  3. September 14, 2011 10:38 am

    I am so sad that I haven’t read this. I definitely need to get my hands on a copy!

  4. September 14, 2011 1:02 pm

    Oh, I’m so heading out to look for a copy!

    • September 19, 2011 8:52 am

      Bookwyrme – Awesome! Let me know how you like it (which I’m sure you will!)

  5. September 14, 2011 2:18 pm

    I’m really excited about this book! I’m glad to see it’s living up to the hype.

    • September 19, 2011 8:53 am

      Kathy – I didn’t even really notice that my hype (in terms of officially-generated hype) – plenty of ARCs sent out, but that was about it. I think it really is just that great of a book.

  6. September 14, 2011 5:17 pm

    I really enjoyed Bailey and Poppit’s story too. And I loved the way it all came together. A wonderful reading experience. Great review!

    • September 19, 2011 8:54 am

      Annette – I did think it came together a little too quickly, but that might just have been because I loved the book so much that I wanted it to linger. :-D

  7. September 14, 2011 5:37 pm

    I wish people would stop loving this book! I’m trying to resist buying books for a bit, so I can try and chip away at the TBR pile. I’m failing at that of course, but still. my non-existant will power does not need any excuses! ;)

    • September 19, 2011 8:55 am

      Darren – Oh, I understand the dilemma, but as a fellow TBR-reducing-struggler, I’m going to grant you a one-time exemption for this book. :)

  8. September 14, 2011 6:58 pm

    >>it’s the circus you always wanted the circus to be.

    GOOD. I read a book about a circus when I was a kid (Streatfeild’s Circus Shoes), and it made circuses sound so great, and then every book I’ve read about a circus since then has been unbearably depressing. I am way past due for a pleasant circus book.

    • September 19, 2011 8:57 am

      Jenny – This book is definitely not depressing, but it’s not entirely pleasant, either. Not that I don’t think you’ll love it – the circus is so fantastic in every sense of the word – but just: forewarned.

  9. September 14, 2011 7:05 pm

    Jenny — while this story has a great circus, I’m not sure I would define it as a “pleasant” book….

    • September 19, 2011 8:59 am

      Annette – I agree with you, but it’s also not depressing/unpleasant on the order of Water for Elephants or Geek Love. (Both of which I thought were very good, and well-worth reading, but The Night Circus has a magical quality to it that keeps it lighter, and it doesn’t dwell on the dark side of circus life the way other circus books tend to.)

  10. September 14, 2011 9:47 pm

    Thanks for this review. When I was ten I really wanted to run away and join the circus. Can’t wait to read this book!

    • September 19, 2011 9:00 am

      Gavin – I don’t know that I ever had the impulse to run away and join the circus… before reading this book. I would totally run away to join/follow The Night Circus!

  11. September 15, 2011 6:25 am

    I have to ask… Is the whole book in present tense or does it jump around between past and present? I’m curious. (I’m long overdue for authors that pull off either well, mind.) But it sounds like an utterly fascinating book!

    • September 19, 2011 9:01 am

      Shanra – It’s all present tense (I think? there may have been a few little parts in past?), which is not normally my favorite, but in this case I was so lost in the story that I barely even noticed.

      • Shanra permalink
        September 21, 2011 4:20 pm

        It’s not normally my favourite either. It has to hit you just right for it to work. I’m glad to hear that it did so for you! ^-^ I’ve no doubt it’ll eventually make its way onto my TBR pile, but we’ll see how long it takes. ^-^

  12. September 15, 2011 9:38 pm

    Glad to see you loved it! I read the excerpt before I accepted the ARC, and it grabbed me from the start. Can’t wait to read it!

  13. September 16, 2011 10:52 am

    I read the sample and loved it, now your review definitely makes me want to read this right away! Sounds like a great world to get lost in and perfect for a Friday read too! Check out what everyone else is reading this friday/for the weekend at friday reads on facebook and twitter :)

    Love the look of your blog and I will definitely be back to visit. I am fairly new to the book blogging world and loving it so far.

    • September 19, 2011 9:03 am

      bookwormcastle – This would be a *perfect* read for a crisp fall evening, curled up with a blanket and some hot cider.

  14. September 16, 2011 1:23 pm

    Loved what you had to say about THE NIGHT CIRCUS. While I don’t ding books nor rate them myself, I thought the jumping around in the timeframe a little distracting. If that is what you meant with pacing comment we are spot on with our take on this fabulous read.

    • September 19, 2011 9:05 am

      Poof – The jumping around in the timeframe, yes, and also I thought there were some places where the plot was unfolding too slowly or too quickly, and could have been evened out some. But only minor, minor complaints… “fabulous” is a good word for my overall opinion!

  15. September 17, 2011 5:40 am

    This one sounds great! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy and to read it myself :)

    • September 19, 2011 9:05 am

      Nikki-ann – I hope you’re able to lay hands on a copy sooner rather than later!

  16. September 18, 2011 11:43 am

    What’s cool about this book is that *everyone* is raving about it — bloggers of all genres seem to have really loved it. I have an ARC I haven’t gotten to waiting for me. I’m thinking it’d make a great Readathon book…if I can wait that long to pick it up!

    • September 19, 2011 9:06 am

      Erin – It would be good for the readathon in that it would definitely keep you absorbed, but I’d actually recommend not using it for the readathon, in part because it seems cruel to suggest waiting that long, but mostly because it’s the kind of book that you’re really going to want to linger over, not power through.

  17. September 18, 2011 2:41 pm

    I keeping hearing great things about this book, so I guess I’m just going to have to snag a copy as soon as I can! My co-worker checked out our copy of the book last week. I hope she reads it quickly so I can check it out! Thanks for the review.

    • September 19, 2011 9:08 am

      Emily – Oh, for sure! I suggest mercilessly hounding your co-worker to read faster, or maybe try bribing her with popcorn and chocolate mice. :)

  18. October 5, 2011 8:29 pm

    I really loved this book and would jump at the chance to live within its pages for the rest of my life. Like you I could almost smell the circus around me as I read the book so amazing where the descriptions. I too loved Bailey and Poppet and couldn’t wait to get back to their story. I love how Morgenstern used her words and built her story. She’s also super lovely to meet so if she’s ever in your area be sure to go see her.

    Also – have you seen the UK book? ZOMG so much prettier than the US edition!

    • October 14, 2011 9:50 am

      Irish – I’m not somewhere that gets author tours particularly often, but I’ll keep an eye out. :)

  19. December 2, 2011 11:16 pm

    I too thought Bailey and Poppet’s story was almost more interesting. Great review!

    Here’s mine:

  20. Lily Keats permalink
    June 13, 2012 5:11 pm

    This became my all time favorite book the second i picked it up. I love it so much!

  21. June 14, 2012 9:44 am

    While I can’t say that I agree with the assessment regarding the plot (which I thought was all over the place and almost non-existant), the assessment of the setting was perfect! And your review very well written!


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