Monday, May 6, 2013

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I have to admit to being a little wary of Erin Morgenstern's debut The Night Circus. It came out in 2011 and created a huge amount of buzz. I try not to listen to hype, because I often find that if the work can't live up to the words spoken and written about it then I wind up disappointed and that's really not fair to the author.

We did have a copy of it, but it was somewhere on Mt Toberead. Then it was chosen as May's book of the month by Fantasy Faction. So I picked it up and started reading.

This review could well have consisted of 'Go and read this, it is brilliant!' because those were my thoughts after finishing The Night Circus.

I could use a lot of adjectives, other people have: astounding, brilliant, outstanding, beautiful, lush, etc... They all apply. Mesmeric is the one I like the most, though. That's what The Night Circus does, it entrances you and draws you into it's tents filled with wonder and beauty.

The idea of the circus itself is intriguing and The Night Circus is everything that a circus should be, a place that is ever changing, ever moving, magical and mysterious.

Even the way it's written is different, and I don't use that word lightly. For a debut author Erin Morgenstern is both remarkably talented and extremely brave. The entire narrative is third person, present tense. This is really hard to do, and do well. Experienced and successful authors fear to try it, and with good reason. If it's not done well it is awful to read. Not with Morgenstern's The Night Circus, it's not even noticeable, and it adds to the strangeness and the hypnotic quality of the tale.

Then there are the timeshifts.  Nearly every short chapter seems to take place in a different place and a different time. The narrative winds in and out of time over thirty years. This can be frustrating in other books, but not in The Night Circus. I felt the interlocking stories as they wove through that thirty year time period were perfectly placed and they gave the story a sense of history and depth.

The story largely concerns itself with a bet made between two magicians of who can produce the best practitioner of the art. It is those two that the readers follow: Celia and Marco. There are other side stories which are every bit as enchanting and interesting.

At times it seems like not a lot happens, and it is probably true, but you keep reading on the for the descriptions and the wonder that Morgenstern can evoke from her pages. The Night Circus is a feast for the senses of the mind.

She has strong, if strange characters, too, from the tortured Celia and her horrible father; Hector, to the mysterious tattooed Japanese contortionist Tsukiko, the tragic Tarot reader Isobel, the outsider Bailey, who wants to be part of the circus, the quirky twins Poppet and Widget with their performing kittens, the circuses owner Christopher Lefevre and Herr Thiessen and his incredible clocks. The only character that didn't really work for me was Marco. He seemed a little off at times, lacking in depth.

Get The Night Circus, read it and find out what all the fuss is about, you will not be sorry you did.


  1. I think mesmeric is a brilliant word for it! :-)

  2. Thank you Victoria, yes I found it did have that quality to it.

  3. I've already read the book, and yes, mesmerising is the best way to describe it.
    I like your review! Will come back for some more.

  4. Thank you Nino, glad to have you on board.

  5. Having no idea what to expect with this book as it was chose in my bookclub. Wow it was just so wonderful, so pleasantly surprised as such a great read. magical with great twist throughout.