Book Review, Fiction

The Night Circus – A Dreamers’ Book Review

If you feel like letting go of our world and stepping into a beautifully painted dream, this is the book for you!

It all starts slow. Even from the first pages, we get a feel of the circus’ flamboyant atmosphere. Descriptions are poetic. Images are vivid. The circus is all black and white and, yet, we feel we entered a colorful place and we let ourselves enchanted by the beauty of the tents. Each one is unique and magical, depicting an entire world that captures all the senses.

However, this goes on for far, far too long. What should have been an extraordinary introduction of a few pages (and with the beauty of the descriptions it could have went on even longer than that of regular books), here, the introduction went on for half the book. Of course, we gradually meet some of the characters, but it’s all in passing and not even the main characters are memorable up until this point.

The Night Circus is the venue for a challenge between two forms of magic, practiced by two young magicians. Celia and Marco are bound together for life, showing off their powers, competing by rules even they don’t understand at first. The bond they have is created by their teachers when they are very young. They prepare for the competition, unaware, at first, it’s a life and death kind of challenge. Though they understand the circus is just a venue, they also become attached to it, its members and, even more tricky, to each other.

The writing is like a puzzle. I found it very problematic, as it skipped back and forth on the timeline, making everything very confusing. Perhaps reading it on a paperback instead of a kindle would have helped, because it would have been easier to go back and recall where the timeline left off.

However, the timeline contributes to the mysterious atmosphere. We get glimpses of past and present, fragments of various characters’ lives, most with no relationship to each other, but connected in some way with the circus. This mystery was great to keep the circus’aura and the general feeling of the book, but it was very detrimental for the characters. In the end, I can’t say I loved or even cared for any one of them. They remained obscured and distant and I remained indifferent to their fate.

That saddened me, as the potential of this book was immense, but characters, I think, are the ones that make or break a book. And, unfortunately, not connecting emotionally with them, is what kept this book from becoming spectacular.

On the other hand, there is a society in the book that got me intrigued. It was “the rêveurs”. I loved the idea they represent – an unofficial, loyal fan-club of the Night Circus. I loved their passion for the circus, how they came to be and how united they were. The descriptions surrounding them and their lifestyle made me want to be a part of such an interesting community. I don’t remember anything in my life to stir up such intense feelings and “the rêveurs” made me long for such passion.

However, what I enjoyed the most is the idea of different types of magic. I never thought about it before, but the way magic is viewed here is that there is natural talent and learned skills. The competition between the two young magicians supposes one type of magic is better than the other in some way. Of course, they both require an extraordinary amount of dedication and effort. Even natural talent is of no use if you don’t know how to control it perfectly. This idea – raw talent versus learned skills – is what got me most invested in the competition and most curious about how it will end, especially because both magicians created equally extraordinary things.

I won’t include spoilers here, but I will say the finish was a bit anticlimactic. All the build up for it made me expect something as grandiose as the circus. It didn’t go down that way. I appreciate how everyone’s story was tied up, but the way the contest began, it really made me curious. I didn’t like the characters very much, but I did like the challenge. The challenge and the joy of being enveloped in this magical world is what kept me going. To have the challenge finish the way it did, I didn’t even have the power to be in rage, because rage requires energy and emotion. I was just bored.

Yet, would I recommend this book? Yes! Of course, you should know what you’re getting yourself into first, but everyone wants and expects something different from books…

I don’t enjoy descriptions, but I loved them in this one! I feel descriptions should be there to somehow advance the plot, yet, in this book, they worked either way! Surprisingly, I was never bored by them. They made me feel whimsical and creative and dreamy. I felt myself there, in the circus and I saw everything happen clearly. For that performance alone, Erin Morgenstern is an author I’d love to come back to.

Furthermore, the premise was perfect. The challenge to the death was a great idea, and it was reasonably well executed. Of course, the characters felt flat, the action could have been more dynamic, but it all depends on what you search for in a book.

If you want to enter another world and day dream about magic, this is a great one!

P.S. I read this book as part of a group read initiated by M.J. who has the wonderful Youtube channel, “Reading This Life”. Part of the group read and persons who made sure the reading was a lot more enjoyable were also: Shannon from “Shannon’sBookishMusings” and Jolene from “Bookworm Adventure Girl”. This was my first ever group read and I loved it. It kept me very motivated and a lot more attentive to details in the book. If you’re keen on participating on group reads too, they will continue to happen on the Discord channel “Reading This Life”, which is currently free to join. Each one of these wonderful ladies has her own version of the review for The Night Circus. Please go check out their channels and see how they’ve enjoyed the book.

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