Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: September 13, 2011
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Source: Doubleday (ARC)
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
The Night Circus is a book that is more imaginative than anything I've read in a long time. It is magical and whimsical as well as dark and disturbing. It is dreamlike and fantastic with haunted undertones. It is enchanting and charming and dangerous.

The story is told in alternating points of view and times, in the third person present tense. The scattered scenes work together seamlessly to add both knowledge and mystery, without causing the sort of confusion that makes a story difficult to follow. The pacing is perfect. The setting is grandiose. The prose is lush, magical, and dreamlike. The imagery of the circus is delightful, engrossing, and easily imagined by the descriptions. The world building surrounding the circus is incredibly well done, hitting on all of the senses and doing an amazing job of creating an atmosphere.

While The Night Circus follows several characters who are involved with the circus, the story centers around Celia and Marco, two magicians pitted against each other in a mysterious duel. The cast of characters surrounding Le Cirque des Rêves is as unique as the circus itself. They range from architects and clock makers to dreamers and ballerinas to illusionists and contortionists. The circus is the catalyst for the relationships that develop between them. It connects them. And by the time that I was finished with the book, I had become connected to them as well.

The Night Circus had me engrossed in the story and characters, and especially the setting. I read it slowly, not because I was disinterested, but because I did not want it to end. I savored every word, and would recommend it to anyone, particularly those who find appealing the idea of crawling into this dream of a circus for a little while.


  1. Wow, sounds like everything about this book is pretty much perfect! We weren't sure about the alternating POVs, but it doesn't seem like you had a problem with that? Can't wait to read it for ourselves. Thanks for writing such a great review!

  2. I really loved this review. All those adjectives in the first paragraph -- it really was all that! Well said!

  3. @ We Heart YA - I had no problems with the alternating POVs or time frames. There's basically two story lines going, and eventually the earlier one catches up to the later one. There's no choppiness when the narrative switches to a different group or person. It all flows really well.

  4. I'm reading this one right now, and I have to say so far I completely agree with everything you've said. I want to just sit down and read until I'm done, but at the same time take it slow so I can savor every single little bit. It is definitely gunning for my favorite book of 2011. I have no doubt it'll succeed at that. Great review!

  5. I've heard such awesome things about this book that I was actually ready to buy a paper copy of the book (I'm a Kindle devotee) and still stopped when I saw the hardcover price. I'll be buying it for Kindle but I'm looking forward to enjoying it (hopefully) as much as everyone else has. Nice review!

  6. Great review.
    I've got this sat in my TBR pile so i'm glad you like it. I got my HB copy from WHSmith for £5.99 about 2 weeks ago. I don't know how long they run their offers for but might be worth a look.

  7. The great irony of this book is that I was skipping the supposed best parts - the fabulous visuals - because they're tangled up with flat characters, a plot that is random and illogical, and a complete lack of emotion. This book should have been a novella.

    1. I (obviously) disagree with you, and wonder if you still would have found the plot random or illogical or devoid of emotion had you not skipped parts.


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