by Erin Morgenstern
Characters: **** (4 Stars)
Character Development: **** (4 Stars)
Plot: ***** (5 Stars)
Writing: **** (4 Stars)
Overall: ***** (5 Stars)
Age Range Recommendation: 16+
Reunion Review! We read The Night Circus within two days of each other and haven’t shut up about it yet.
We’re going to dive right into this one, and tell you the things we didn’t like first. Actually, make that singular. There was only one thing we didn’t like about this book, and it was the romance. It just wasn’t written that well. There was a lot of longing, and despair, and very lofty suffering. And it was sort of love at first sight, which we only like if it’s done really, really well, because we don’t really believe in love at first sight. The book’s two main characters, Celia and Marco, are interesting and well written in nearly all of their scenes, but when they insist upon being in the same room and talking to one another the utter lack of chemistry is, frankly, alarming. As a literary trope instant love can work occasionally, but we didn’t like it this time. It was just too gooey. It’s funny that we say this because there are actually two romances in The Night Circus, both of which begin with love at first sight, and one of which worked really well. We guess that means that Erin Morgenstern is capable of creating a lovely romance, but the relationship between Celia and Marco seemed entirely forced.
Now that our one issue with the book is out of the way, we’ll tell you that this may be the best book about a circus that we have ever read. It has an air of mystery, of wonder, of amazement. When you read it you’re not reading about the circus, you are reading the circus itself. The descriptions are so vivid and beautiful that you get pulled right into the dark, dreamy atmosphere. Repetitive writing usually annoys us, but Erin Morgenstern uses it with such skill that it only adds to the overall effect. She describes the smells of the circus in such detail that every time you enter the gates you can smell caramel and cinnamon and smoke. When she talks about food you get hungry, and the Midnight Dinners she describes feature such rich and colorful depictions of food (not to mention the guests and clothing and decorations) that we’ve decided to start hosting our own as soon as we can find the funds.
There’s a certain sensory overload associated with The Night Circus. Colors, scents, and light define it more than anything else. As you wander through the pages you can smell the food, your eyes are dazzled by lights, and the black and white costumes swirl around you. Then you move to a scene outside of the circus and all of a sudden you are overwhelmed by a rainbow of color. The whole book feels like a dream or an illusion.
One of the things that we love about The Night Circus is that there is no real main character. Or rather, the circus itself is the main character. It grows and evolves, it develops, you love it more and more as the story progresses. It has struggles and sorrows, it is sometimes in danger. It is a living entity, powered by words and magic and people. The other characters in the book are important because they give the circus its life. This effect is not an accident either. About halfway through the book it becomes clear that the plot and the experience of reading have become entwined through the clever writing of Erin Morgenstern. We’re able to overlook the dreadful romantic scenes because at every moment we were desperate for more descriptions of the monochrome, unfathomably magical tents and their inhabitants. The tragedy of this book is that Le Cirque des Reves manages to captivate readers as strongly as it takes hold of the “rêveurs” who follow the circus around the globe, and we’ll never be able to visit.
She’s a new author, and occasionally it shows. The book isn’t quite as polished as it might be. As we mentioned before, the love scenes are not that well done. There are little pieces that could be improved here and there. These little issues didn’t bother us though, because this is one of the most imaginative first novels we’ve ever come across. This means that she’s going to get better. She’s going to get so good that every word flames in your mind and you never want to put her books down. Actually, she already kind of did that with this one. We predict a cult following to develop quickly. Next time we see someone wearing black or white with a red scarf, we’ll have to say hello. We’ll have something quite magical in common.