05 February, 2012

Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

It's been months since I last posted a book review, which is much too long. I miss talking about novels I've read recently, so book reviews are back on for The Eagle's Aerial Perspective!


Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 400
Rating: 4.7 out of 5
Cover Rating: 5 out of 5. I love the way it looks like a delicate paper cut-out; also, in person, the cover is shiny and the stars on the background sort of sparkle.

Inside flap:
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.

My expectations: Hailed as "the next Harry Potter", I wasn't quite sure what to think of this book. I don't know how many novels have been called the next big literary phenomenon, but it's a lot. However, I really liked the blurb for this one and, of course, the cover was beautiful, so I had high expectations.

The Night Circus exceeded them.

About the book: First off, let me say that this is not the next Harry Potter. The style and target age group are very different, the characters are older than HP throughout much the story, and this book will never have as large an audience. Even so, I think The Night Circus was a wonderful book with a fascinating cast and one of the most unique worlds I've come across.

  • Writing:

I know Erin Morgenstern's writing style has been criticized--and I can certainly see why--but personally I loved it. The description was beautiful, and it was one of those books I slowed down my reading for just to absorb the language.

  • Plot:
This is where I got a little confused. You see, I don't tend to pay much attention to chapter titles or the little location/date listings that authors sometimes put at the top of the page, since I assume I'll be able to pick up on where the story is.

Pay Close Attention To Them in this book. If you don't, then things will get muddled. There are a bunch of time shifts and back-and-forth between events in the characters' lives. It was an interesting way to structure the story--though toward the second half it felt like there were too many changes.

  • Characters:
Celia Bowen was my favorite character in the story, since she was intelligent, strong under the circumstances, and, of course, very talented as a magician.

Marco Alisdair was also a good character. I liked the way he contrasted with Celia; she'd been trained with magic all her life and was born with abilities, while he spend much of his childhood learning it. So much so that he didn't even have a name until he named himself in one spontaneous moment.

Prospero, Celia's father, was an interesting antagonist, and not only because he's her father. It was hard to tell when he would emerge and ruin things, for reasons I won't disclose here for fear of spoilers. And then there was the other antagonist Mr. A. H—, the perpetual mystery.

  • Setting/Elements:
I loved the setting. The world along with the magic itself was treated in a unique way and, again, Morgenstern's descriptions helped bring it to life. In addition, the circus--the focal point of the story--is the most interesting part; I really wanted to be a reveur myself and visit it by the end of the book.

Content: Sex, some violence.

Other: I hope Summit Entertainment doesn't botch up the movie, if they ever make it. It would be a tragedy to see this story ruined on the big screen.

Do I recommend this book? If you enjoy elements of Fantasy, magic, descriptive writing, and/or even romance, I absolutely recommend The Night Circus.

-----The Golden Eagle


Old Kitty said...

Sounds good!! And there's a film too? How wonderful!! I don't know why (random way that I think) but I sort of keep thinking of the Heroes series - the last series where a carnival takes centre stage - as I read more about this book!

Thanks for the review! Take care

mshatch said...

This is on my TBR list and I'm glad your review confirmed it's place :) It may just be next - after the three I have from the library. Thanks!

Anthony said...

Great review! I might have to read the book.

mooderino said...

I was a bit puzzled by the Harry Potter comparison too. Doesn't seem to be at all similar.


K. Turley (Clutzattack) said...

I had to go flip through my copy to figure out what you meant by "sex". The scene was so undetailed it didn't even blip on my radar.

Definitely a fair review, and I do love the cover best as well.

L.G.Smith said...

Wow, this sounds like something I would love. Dueling magicians? Yes, please. Thanks for the review.

Inger said...

What a well organized, well written, to the point, and descriptive book review. Great job!

Su said...

Brilliant! I saw Erin Morgenstern at the Texas Book Festival, and have had this book on my TBR list. Now I'm even more excited!

Robyn Campbell said...

Excellent review, Eagle! I'm glad I read it (the review) too. I have wondered about this book. Now I am sure I want it. Glad to know your expectations were exceeded. I loves me some beautiful description. :-)

Charles Gramlich said...

If you liked the prose that much, this might be down my alley. I love beautifully written books.

Southpaw said...

I just heard about this book and thought it sound intriguing. Your review is wonderful. It is on my TBR list!

Brian said...

I had not heard of that one yet but it does sound like a pretty good one! Have a great week!

Deniz Bevan said...

Thanks so much for review this, Eagle. I've been wondering what it was about and what it was like. Very detailed review!

Sofia said...

I adored this book. I wrote a review a few months back (I believe you read it... I seem to remember talking about the different covers) and I thought it was a fascinating world. My NaNo11 was based in a circus, and I tried to draw some elements from The Night Circus into it, as I read it partly as inspiration for my NaNo. I thought it was a wonderful read, but I can definitely see how some people wouldn't like it.

I certainly wouldn't call it the next Harry Potter, though it was very enjoyable and thought-provoking. I had been told beforehand by my mom (who read it just before me) to pay attention to the dates, so that was definitely a plus. Also, I don't really think I would want a movie of this book, unless it was written and overseen by Erin Morgenstern, because I feel like most everyone else would botch it completely. That might just be me, though.


shelly said...

You gave a very nice review. However, I'm not prone to massive amounts of descriptive writing. My eyes glaze over. The only way I got through To Kill a Mockingbird was listening to it on audio. More than likely, this would be a good one to listen to. I'm more of a dialogue person with action and little description when reading.

S.P. Bowers said...

I've heard so many good things about this book. I also like that it started out as a NaNo book. I need to move it up in the TBR pile.

Christine Rains said...

Wonderful review. I need to get my hands on this book!

Emily Rose said...

This sounds like a wonderful book, and what an exceptional review. The cover *is* beautiful.

farawayeyes said...

Great review. Personally,I loved this book. I can see that it is not for everyone. Harry Potter? Are you kidding me? A 'Night Circus' movie could be wonderful done right or a total disaster. I think I would wait for a review that I trusted before spoiling the wonderful images from the book.

Susan Kane said...

Nice review. Book reminds me of a Ray Bradbury story, "Something Wicked This Way Comes".

Rachel Morgan said...

Okay, definitely going on the TBR list now! Sounds like all the kinds of things I love in a book!

DWei said...

This sounds like something my girlfriend would enjoy reading. Me? Not so much.

Paul Tobin said...

I had never heard of this book but I shall have to look at it. Good review of the book, very clear, intrigued me enough to make me look for the book.

Talli Roland said...

I've heard such amazing things about this novel. I think I might have to succumb soon!

catherinemjohnson.wordpress.com said...

I love a book with great language. This book keeps popping up, i must put it on my TBR pile. Thanks!

David P. King said...

Nice review! That certainly sounds like a book I would be interested in picking up. Thanks for the review! :)

Krispy said...

This one has been sitting on my shelf for a while! I need to get to it! I loved the premise and the cover art as well!

My friend read it and liked it, though she said she wanted a bit more from the characters. Even so, I'm still excited to read this one.

Thanks for the review!

Jay Noel said...

It sounds like a great book. I love stories with competing magicians.

Shelley said...

Nice review Golden Eagle! :) I'm not a big fan of magic and fantasy, but it does sound like an interesting book!

The Golden Eagle said...

Old Kitty: I've never heard of the series, but I do enjoy stories with circuses/carnivals--it sounds interesting!

You're very welcome!

Mshatch: Anytime. :)

Anthony: Thanks!

I hope you enjoy it, if you do.

Mooderino: Nope. Though I think that the publishers were thinking more in popularity (at least with the adult market) than in terms of the actual content. :P

It was very interesting to read your chapter breakdown of The Night Circus, by the way. :) As always!

(Hope you don't mind that I posted about the book as well--I had been planning this review since I read the book, and I figured the first Sunday in February was as good a date as any.)

K. Turley: I always list the content in my reviews. I know some people might find even such undescriptive sex offensive, so I figure it's better to mention it than not.


If Morgenstern writes another book, I hope she gets as beautiful a cover--just so I can look at another one. LOL.

L.G.: You're welcome! :)

Inger: Thank you so much!

Su: You saw her? *jealous*

Hope you like the book! :)

Robyn: Thank you.

It's always nice when a book goes above and beyond!

Charles: I posted a teaser from the book several weeks ago:


. . . which gives you a bit of an idea of the language. Though there are lines that have even more description and turns of phrase.

Southpaw: Thank you!

I hope you like it. :)

Brian: I really enjoyed it.

Hope you have a great week as well!

Deniz: You're welcome!

Sofia: Yup, I read it. :)

I agree. There are so many subtleties that could make it hard for someone who wasn't heavily involved in the story (and writers are certainly involved in their worlds :P) to get things right--and the story depends on those details.

Shelly: Glad you liked the review!

I'm more of a fan of descriptive writing, but description can get in the way of the actual content, it's true.

S.P.: Gives the NaNoers (of which I am one!) some hope. LOL.

Christine: Thank you!

Emily: Aw, thanks. :)

One of my favorites.

Farawayeyes: Thank you.

Before watching the movie? Yes, I would do that, too. Or at least check the rating on one of the movie sites before looking at the trailer.

Susan: Thanks!

I love Ray Bradbury's writing. :) Actually, from what I've read of his From the Dust Returned was written in a similar style.

Rachel: Awesome. :)

DWei: Well, I'm the Fantasy type (when I'm not reading hard SF, of course) so The Night Circus was right up my alley.

Paul: Thank you!

Talli: You should (IMHO). It's a really good book. :)

Catherine: Me, too.

You're welcome!

David: Thanks. :)

You're quite welcome!

Krispy: I liked the characters the way they were--though I suppose they weren't as drawn out as some are. They're also a bit more detached than most, since it's third-person narrative.


Jay: They're fun to read.

Shelley: Thank you!

Might be worth giving a try sometime. I thought the writing was quite good, at least. :)

Sarah Pearson said...

This has been on my list for a while, I've heard lots of good things about it. I absolutely adore that cover.

Anonymous said...

I like the sound of the book... love fun worlds... Just need to get myself a copy now:)

Rusty Webb said...

I've also heard this book was good. I think mooderino did a chap 1 critique recently. Well, someone did anyway. not sure when I'll get around to it. One day, I hope.

DeniseCovey_L_Aussie said...

Hi Golden. It certainly looks and sounds great. I like your style of review.


Anonymous said...

This was a great breakdown of the novel. I have this in my TBR pile. I keep wanting to get to it. This book sounds fantastic.

Samantha Vérant said...

This one has been on my TBR list for quite some time. I can't wait to read it!

Susan Fields said...

Thanks for a great review - sounds like a terrific book. I'd never heard of it before.

Shirley Wells said...

Wow, what a wonderful cover. It's amazing.

Thanks for the review - and the advice. I tend to ignore the time/location details with chapter headings too.

I shall have to check it out.

....Petty Witter said...

Hearing lots of good things about this one, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

cherie said...

Sounds like my kind of thing. And did you say the writing/prose was beautiful? I'm sold, baby! Thanks for the review. I'm definitely going to look for this. ;)

Mark Noce said...

Cool review, sounds neat!

The Golden Eagle said...

Sarah: It's one of my favorites. :) (The cover--though the book was quite good as well.)

Tfwalsh: Yup. ;)

Rusty: It was Mooderino.

I hope you do, too! The Night Circus is worth the read.

Denise: Thank you. I'm glad you like it!

Medeia: Thanks. :)

Samantha: I hope you enjoy the story!

Susan: You're very welcome.

Well, now you can say you have! :)

Shirley: I agree.

You're welcome!

They just seem so inconsequential, sitting there at the top of the page. :P

Hope you like it!

Petty Witter: You're welcome. :)

Cherie: Indeed I did!

Anytime. I hope you enjoy The Night Circus. :)

Mark: Thanks!

It's a great book.

MISH said...

I saw the book over December, while browsing in the bookstore - the cover caught my attention first... it looked very interesting. I've never really taken the time to read fantasy novels - this could be a first, if I can get my hands on a copy from the library...

The Golden Eagle said...

MISH: No Fantasy?! . . . LOL. That and SF is almost all I read. :P

I do recommend The Night Circus, though. I think it has cross-genre appeal.

Damyanti said...

Love how you break up your reviews so they're easy to digest.

Stopping by also to welcome you on board the A to Z Challenge April 2012
We shall have loads of fun exchanging comments and visits!

Twitter: @AprilA2Z

The Golden Eagle said...

Damyanti: Thank you! I'm glad you like the format of my reviews. :)

I'm really looking forward to the Challenge.