The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

Well that didn’t take long. I started it in my lunch (half) hour yesterday, and finished it when I got home from work today. Not record time, but we’re picking up speed compared to my recent lagging posts (mostly that’s because I was poor and binge re-reading Pratchett (not the Pratchett on my Pratchett re-reading plan) on my Kindle). Hurrah for friends who buy me exciting surprise birthday books. I hadn’t even heard of this book before I picked it up and read it, or seen a blurb, so I had no idea what I was getting into.

Basically, the Night Circus follows a mysterious contest between magicians, fought in the arena of the Cirque des Rêves. As the story unfolds, we learn about the magicians, and about the circus, and about how the contest itself works, as they learn as well. There’s never really any exposition here, just a slow unfurling of sense as things slowly slot together, all wrapped in excellently pseudo-Victoriana. I love it.

It’s another story told from two perspectives, and sometimes more, but the perspectives all meld together throughout the book, so you get no sense of “yay this is a Celia chapter” and “oh no, a Marco chapter”. It slots together neatly and effortlessly, so you slip into the viewpoint of one or the other or a new character without even noticing, initially. And because it slots together so neatly and effortlessly, those times when someone new does appear, and you do notice (which I always find annoying, rather irrationally – I start thinking, for instance, WHO IS THIS RANDOMER AND WHY ARE THEY NOT SHALLAN? to invoke a different author) do not irritate, because you have a greater sense of certainty that it will weave into the rest of the plot without leaving you puzzled. It is a beautiful, flowing thing. It also gives you a lot of love for a lot of characters, without the need to go into a whole chapter from the viewpoint of one minor player just to make a specific point – the story ebbs and flows into and around them, so you get snippets of their perspectives, but without delving all the way into how they think and their viewpoint about a whole chapter of things. It’s an elegant solution to something that does often irritate me.

On the flip side, the author is not quite so good at crafting characters as I would like. Don’t get me wrong, there are some lovely ones, but they’re not as captivating as his/her (Erin is a female name? I don’t know. I’ll stick with “their”) their plot-weaving and perspective shifting skills. There’s nothing strictly wrong with any of them, but they don’t quite shine in a book full of shiny things.

It is possible that nothing could really truly shine next to the descriptions of the circus itself. It is inventive and wonderful and would be enough for me to have loved the book on its own. The author finds ways to drop new acts and new marvels in as often as they can, and find new sets of eyes for you to experience them through. I love that you see the different parts of the circus from the view of a new patron, an old one who visits and loves and loves again, from a child and an adult, from those within the circus and without, and on the margins. Even things you see twice are rendered new by being seen from a different point of view.

Mostly, it is a book about magic that the author has rendered truly magical, and it has made me childish and gleeful and excited and desperate to keep reading. I truly love it, and the wonder it created in me. Even when it gets a bit dark and desperate and sad, it maintains an air of ethereality that is utterly enchanting.

And I’m quite sleepy so I’m getting a bit weird about it.

Tl;dr – Thank-you Charlotte :D

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About readerofelse

A student of a redundant, useless and thoroughly interesting subject and reader of many books, particularly fantasy, science fiction and plenty else besides.
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2 Responses to The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

  1. Jack V says:

    I loved, loved, loved the setting and descriptions, it was exactly what I wanted from a book called “night circus”. “magic that the author has rendered truly magical” is a really good description.

    Although I ended up with mixed feelings about what actually happened.

    • readerofelse says:

      I thought I was going to end up with mixed feelings too (the Celia/Marco thing was sort of inevitable and predictable) but I’m actually glad it went the way it did. I like that Marco did find someone outside of the game, but also glad that it didn’t work out between them – the tension and whatnot it created were nice, and I did actually care about the inevitable Celia/Marco, especially after Tsukiko explained what had happened in her game – it felt like that was what the game was actually trying to do (given how Prospero explained it), it was pushing them into a situation where one of them would give up for the sake of the other, to see who would give up first. It makes it an even crueler competition than it seems before (and that’s an ongoing theme in the book really… every time you find out more about the competition, it seems even more awful).

      What were your mixed feelings about?

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