Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night CircusTitle: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Publisher: Doubleday

Publication Date: September 13th, 2011

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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. Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

I don’t even know how to describe how amazing this was. Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus was definitely the most original book that I’ve read in a long time!

Due to the sheer number of fantasy novels I’ve read, it’s pretty damn difficult to surprise me. World-building, classifications of magic, and even the setting in modern fantasy fiction are often so similar that it feels like reading the same story over and over again. The Night Circus, however, completely defied any of my predictions. One of the most prominent story arcs is the magical competition between protagonists Celia and Marco, and every time I thought I knew how the competition would play out, I ended up being way off base. Although I won’t give it away for anyone, I thought that Morgenstern picked the perfect resolution to that particular arc.

Everything about Erin Morgenstern’s writing is beautiful, particularly her lyrical descriptions of Le Cirque de Reves (the literal translation of which is “the circus of dreams”). The circus is such a unique construction: it’s a beautiful setting, with its distinctive black and white striped tents set up in circles and night-time performances. Attractions involving real magic shows – whether the audience is aware of their authenticity or not –  are yet another unique aspect. The circus company’s performances were so captivating, it felt like I was actually there. I pictured the whole thing kind of like Cirque de Soleil on magical steroids.

On top of the fantastical elements, The Night Circus was also incredibly romantic. Not just in the sense that it possesses several on going relationships, but that these relationships felt epic. Especially Celia and Marco. I mean, hello? Every time they looked at each other something wondrous and magical would happen. The reactions they had to one another were so strong that their magic caused crazy swirling lights, gusts of wind, and once time even stopped. That’s pretty heady stuff.

Side note: did anybody else feel kind of bad for Isobel? Obviously she wasn’t going to end up the winner in this situation, but still. It must suck to imagine that someone loves you when the whole time they’re off engaging in time-stopping behaviours with another girl.

I think another thing worth mentioning is the fact that this novel is a stand alone, rather than the first in an incredibly drawn out series. Thank goodness.

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