Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I found out about The Night Circus, through, of all things, Fallen London (a.k.a. Echo Bazaar). Failbetter Games created a gorgeous and intriguing promotional game for this book, and I couldn’t help but become curious about it.
The Night Circus‘ chapters alternate between two related yet distinct storylines. One follows Celia Bowen and Marco, two young magicians raised to compete with one another in a duel. Celia is the daughter of a famed illusionist, Hector Bowen. Hector is forced to care for Celia after her mother commits suicide, and only becomes interested in her after discovering her innate magical abilities. Alexander, Hector’s friend and fellow magician, scoffs at Celia’s abilities and claims he can train anyone to be just as powerful. The two decide to arrange a competition between Celia and a student of Alexander’s choosing. Alexander finds a young boy named Marco at an orphanage, and trains him to become an adept magician. Celia and Marco know nothing about each other at first, but go through with their competition at Le Cirque des Reves, a traveling circus powered by their magic.
The other storyline is about a boy named Bailey and his encounters with the Le Cirque des Reves and its performers. It shows what happened years after Celia and Marco concluded their duel.
The book also little chapters, written in second person, that allow readers to experience the circus for themselves.
The circus arrives without warning.
Without warning, indeed. This book took me by surprise, especially since I found it right next to Twilight and other poorly-written “romance” novels for young adults. Morgenstern’s writing drew me into the circus so effortlessly I sped through the first few chapters in less time than I expected. I initially found it odd that the book is written in present tense, since most of the fiction I’ve read is written in past tense. But the story’s second-person POV chapters and the use of present tense throughout the book made me feel more involved with the story.
When it comes to setting and atmosphere, The Night Circus is out of this world. The way Morgenstern described the circus’ attractions and overall feel conjured clear images in my head as I kept reading.
Unfortunately, Morgenstern spends too much effort on sets and costumes that she sacrifices story and character development. The book’s cover advertises the tragic love story between two fated rivals, but this love story is its weak point. The romantic relationship between Celia and Marco has its shining moments. But a lot of it felt forced and ill-timed. Instead of feeling sympathy for the star-crossed lovers, I found myself shaking my head at their actions. Toward the end, I was left wondering if their relationship was worth all the effort and sacrifice.
I felt the same way as I read about the supporting characters and their own roles in the story. There was always something missing for me—something that could make the characters or the story’s events more believable than they are. Reading the book made me feel like I was slowly opening a gift box with layers of elaborate wrapping, only to be disappointed with what was actually inside.
This book has so much potential I felt my heart break for it after I finished reading its last few paragraphs. I wouldn’t say I regret reading it, nor would I stop anyone who wants to give it a try. The book still has its merits, but don’t expect it to be something truly fantastic or epic.
El Santos is a marketing & advertising professional by day and gamer/bookworm/tarot reader by night. She’s prone to sudden fits of fangirling over her varied interests: video games, fiction, art, folkore, anime, and tarot. She currently lives with her husband and 2 rescue cats.