Author: Erin Morgenstern
Genre: General Fiction, Fantasy
Number of pages: 512
Date published: 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I usually shy away from fantasy literature, often proclaiming that I prefer to read stories that could actually happen in our world, but I’m glad I broke that self-enforced rule for The Night Circus. The story begins with a twist of fate: a young Celia is given to her father, Prospero the Enchanter, an extremely talented magician of questionable character. After Celia breaks a teacup without touching it, Prospero notices his daughter’s gift and challenges a man in a grey suit to a duel: Celia against the grey-suited man’s own protégé. After Celia’s opponent is selected and years of training are completed, the Night Circus is chosen as a venue for this competition. However, this nocturnal world of black-and-white stripes becomes much more than a stage for a battle, the lives of many getting tangled up in the magical circus. Beneath the wonders and pleasures of the tents and performances, though, the forces that balance the circus and the competition that drives it threaten to collapse.
The multitude of characters, the non-chronological order of the novel, and the suspenseful mystique Morgenstern creates throughout the story demand readers’ close attention. I often found myself flipping back through the pages, trying to figure out whether certain characters had been mentioned before, if certain events had already taken place at another point of time, or even important details I may have skimmed past without noticing. While the novel was thoroughly enjoyable, it demanded my full attention. It is no lazy read, not the kind of book you can relax with.
But what drives this book is not the plot, but rather the majestic, enchanting atmosphere that is the Night Circus. With her beautifully crafted words, Morgenstern creates an enticing, irresistible world, filled with intricate clocks and mazes and illusions unparalleled by anything found on Earth. Her descriptions are interlaced within the actual story of the circus, a couple pages at a time dedicated to elucidating a certain tent or attraction. Each time I would arrive at one of these descriptions, I felt like a patron of the circus, stumbling upon a new striped tent. Morgenstern creates wishing-to-be reveurs out of her readers, the characters of the book who follow the Night Circus around the globe dressed in black and white with a splash of red. The book concludes, and yet one wishes they could travel with the circus forever.
While I sometimes grew impatient for substantial plot development during the immense stretch of 512 pages, I cherished the opportunity to enter Morgenstern’s highly imaginative and elegant world of the Night Circus. The book has earned critical acclaim with seven weeks on the bestseller list, and has been rumored as a possible film down the road. I urge you to explore the enchanting novel as soon as possible. The well-deserved hype will almost certainly escalate.
Review by Laura Baumgartner, A&S '16