The Night Circus tells the story of a young girl and a young boy, who are bound together to participate in a challenge, which makes them use every bit of their wits to try and beat the other. But this is no ordinary challenge. It is a challenge of magical ability, and the Night Circus is the venue.
In events that span the turn of the century, Celia and Marco circle each other like prey, without knowing who their opponent is, only knowing that they must beat each other in order to release themselves from this challenge which has taken over their whole lives.
Yet what they don’t expect is to fall in love with each other over the process. Bound to destroy each other, destined to be in love, Celia and Marco are forced to question whether true love trumps all, even the lives of those connected with the Circus, as the forces holding the Circus begin to unravel and destroy everyone involved.
Okay, I admit that was a horrible book description. I always try to write my own plot summaries, rather than pull them from Goodreads, but I had an especially hard time with this one. Its only been 2 days since I finished this novel, but I’m having a really hard time remembering what it was about (other than how grand the Circus was) and what the major conflicts were.
But first off, let’s start with the good. The writing is beautiful. Morgensen truly has a talent for evocative details, language that truly appeals to the sense with its descriptive words and imagery. There were many beautiful descriptions of the Circus, of the many tastes and smells and sounds associated with it, which made you picture yourself wherever it was that she was describing. My mouth did water a couple of times when she describe the caramel apples, and that’s definitely the sign of a great writer (either that, or I was hungry).
My friend Cristina uses a word in her review of the book and I think its the perfect word when describing this book in one word: “over-indulgent”. There is barely any story or character development, yet there are pages and pages and pages of excessive, over-indulgent descriptions of how marvellous the Circus was, and how amazing the smells were, and how magical everything was, and how there was so much mystery surrounding everything. You get my point. To me, Morgensen was showing off. Every flowery, over-descriptive sentence which kept my attention away from the (barely there) plot screamed Look at me! and by the time I got to the middle of the book, I was sick of it. It was just so over the top.
As I already mentioned, the plot barely existed. The way the challenge is described, it makes Celia and Marco’s relationship sound fiery and passionate and full of intense magical encounters. I was ready for a showdown, a la Voldemort and Harry, but that’s not what I got. The main characters didn’t meet until more than halfway through and then spent the majority of the time constructing these supposedly-amazing displays and magical feats of wonders in tents. It was nice, but not what I was expecting.
The narrative flow was another problem for me. The story flips back and forth through years, from when the Circus is already born to its conception at a fancy dinner to other points in time. The dates are written in fairly small type at the top of the page, so I missed them for a few chapters, before finally realising that the reason I was so confused was because of the back and forth between the past and present. I get that this is a stylistic choice, and yes it can be really cool, but it seemed to be done without a reason here.
Another one of my pet peeves was the setting of the story. It took place from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, yet there seemed to be no indication of the time period in the story at all. Granted, there was no mention of computers and cell phones, but the setting didn’t seem authentic to the time period the story was set in. And even though the characters are kind of frozen in time while living in the Circus, the rest of the world wasn’t, and I think the lack of mention of the progression of the outside world really detracted from the authenticity of the story. I get that the world of the Circus was sort of like a bubble, but I didn’t really believe that it took place in the turn of the century, since the characters didn’t really behave any differently from now.
So with that: 1.5/5.
I really don’t like giving low marks to a book, but I felt like this one was a huge disappointment. Maybe because it was overly hyped up, but I was not as enchanted as I thought I was going to be. I barely finished it.
Thanks for reading.
‘Till next time,