Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus cover

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Anchor Books

Publication Date: July 2012 (paperback)

512 pages, paperback

Check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

This book was recommended to me by AT LEAST 10 people. Every one of those people raved about it saying it was amazing, etc. So of course I had to check it out. I don’t think I was a victim of the hype monster. At least, I tried to go into it with no expectations (but I suppose some of them were still there).

Overall, this book was okay. The beginning was really interesting, the middle part dragged, and the end was awesome. I’m finding it difficult to put into words how I felt about this book for that reason.

The beginning: What a COOL idea! A circus that arrives without warning as if it appeared by magic. It only opens at night and closes when the sun rises. Called the Circus of Dreams. There’s going to be a battle of sorts between two magicians/illusionists/enchanters/whatever you want to call them, and the circus will be their arena. This is a seriously interesting premise for a book, and I enjoyed that part quite a bit.

What I was more unsure of in the beginning was the writing. The novel begins in the second person. Yep, second person. I don’t find this very effective in any sort of writing except for an occasional short story. Thankfully, these sections are rare with probably only 15 in the whole novel, each only a couple of pages. Also, the sections that are the actual story are written in the present tense though they are set about a century or more ago. This threw me off too.

The middle: Jesus, the middle. I literally had to take a break from the book and read another book for two days because I honestly didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. I don’t EVER do this. I don’t like leaving one world for another while I’m reading, but I had to. I did want to find out what happened with the battle and what the endgame was and what would happen to each of the characters, but the middle section is practically pointless in my opinion.

The end: The last third of this novel is incredible. Starting with Part IV and continuing until the end of the novel. I was actually really into the novel this whole time and finished the last 120 pages or so in no time. It was exciting and had me on the edge of my seat, flipping pages as quickly as I could to see what happened. Such a difference from the middle when I was flipping pages as quickly as I could to get it over with. So it wasn’t until the last two parts that I found myself actually really like The Night Circus.

We get some beautiful scenes with Celia and Marco, the two illusionists who were supposed to be battling; they were poignant and sad and wonderful, and I just loved all of the little moments when they were together – these were some of my favorite parts. The end is beautifully wrapped up but not too perfect, which I appreciated.

So overall? It was okay. The last third did try to make up for that horrible middle section. This book is 512 pages; it could’ve been AT LEAST 150 pages shorter in my opinion. Most of that middle section could have been shortened to about 50 pages. I really did love that last third though.

This novel is very, very visual. The colors, places, characters, and circus are all easily pictured. To me, a lot of the novel read like a screenplay though; settings and characters described as if setting for a movie or TV show. Actually, this novel would be perfectly suited for either of those. Maybe a Guillermo del Toro movie or something.

The bottom line: This novel was not quite what I was expecting. It’s got a seriously cool concept but fell pretty flat for me, at least in the middle. The last third is awesome though. I do see why some people love this novel so much. Definitely worth a shot.

Rating: 6 – good, but not great

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6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

  1. Beginning the novel in the second person really threw me, and it took me a while to get comfortable with the flow of the book and the flipping back and forth with time. However, for me, it was one of those books that made me feel like I was waking up from a nap whenever I’d put it down, and as strange as that sounds, I really really like a book that does that to me. While you’re right in that the story did feel a bit of a drag in the middle, it didn’t bother me as much because I think the writing’s appeal to my senses (I very much wanted a caramel apple pretty much the whole time) kept me going. I hope a movie happens soon.

  2. I am so glad to see a review of this one that isn’t glowing, because I felt the sameway! It actually dragged so much for me that I never got around to finishing the book even though I didn’t have much of it left. The writing was beautiful but it was definitely went on too long for me. Great review 🙂

  3. I read and loved this book a while ago now. I can’t remember it enough to comment on the middle section, what exactly happened in that section that you thought it dragged?

    It was the descriptions and world building that i loved, i got lost in it. But, with screenplays, the point is they lack a lot of description. They are kept to dialogue with a minimal amount of action/setting, so though this book would be wonderful on film, the sheer amount of descriptive prose would be lost in a screenplay.

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