…I didn’t love it. I wanted to love it, and I certainly loved the concept of the circus itself, and the magic inherent in much of the descriptions of the circus. But the novel, as a whole, didn’t quite blow me away as I had expected.
Written by Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus is a fantasy novel that has proven to be quite popular, and it first caught my attention through the many reviews I have seen floating around the blogosphere. Most of these reviews are very much positive, and I can see why people love this book.
The story revolves around two characters, Celia and Marco, who are set up from their childhoods to go head to head in a competition of magic. Only, they don’t know the rules, or even who their opponents are (at least initially). In the end, they battle each other by creating The Circus of Dreams, or Le Cirque des Rêves, a magical circus that is only open at night time, travelling around the world thrilling people with it’s increasingly amazing tents and acts, from illusionists whose magic seems so real it is impossible to figure out, to tents such as the ice garden where everything is made of ice, and so on and so forth. As each of the players adds more and more to the circus, they begin to realise who their opponent is, that they are in love, and also how much the life of the circus depends utterly on both of them.
Now I have no issue with the writing – the writing was brilliant, and the circus leapt off the page as far as I’m concerned. It wasn’t just the sights, but the sounds and smells that were described so vividly – I just wanted this place to be real, to walk through the tents, to smell the caramel wafting through the air. The characters likewise are also well developed, and there are a couple of deaths in the book which moved me quite deeply due to the fondness I had grown for these characters.
I think what lets the book down is the story, and perhaps to an extent the pace of the story. It is a good idea, and once all is revealed towards the end it rolls on to quite a spectacular finish. But for so much of the book you are left in the dark as a reader, and while this is a good thing for, say, a crime fiction novel, somehow it just doesn’t sit right with a fantasy. I didn’t want everything to be revealed from the start, of course, but towards the middle of the book it was developing so slowly I almost lost interest entirely, and didn’t touch the book for about 2 months. Some of my friends who have read this found the exact same problem – in one case they didn’t finish reading the novel. I understand that the novel is supposed to slowly build up, but with such a huge array of characters and so many story lines flying all over the place, it becomes difficult to follow when so little is revealed about so many of them.
So it took me several months to read this book, but in the end I did enjoy it. It was a great idea, and it was overall executed quite well, even if I felt like the middle needed a bit of oomph. I certainly look forward to seeing what Morgenstern comes up with for her next novel.
Have you read The Night Circus? What were your thoughts?