This book contains many scenes which deserve a 5-star rating. However, as a whole, I give The Night Circus 4/5 stars for having a weak fourth act and not being reader-friendly.
(For those who want to know more before they read, the blurb is at the bottom of this review)
I can understand the fuss. The descriptions in The Night Circus are fantastic. I haven’t read a book in a while that displays this level of skill, imagination and originality in conjuring (ha! see what I did there?) a place and its atmosphere.
The idea of the circus and the magic behind it is ingenious and many of the characters are truly intriguing.
But this book doesn’t do its readers any favours. It jumps back and forth in time and place almost every chapter. I read the book in three long sittings and still got lost. I felt I needed to draw myself a timeline so I could figure out how old everyone should be and what had happened and what was going to happen. If you were reading this book in short bursts I imagine you would get exasperated quite quickly.
In its fourth act the book seems to tail off. The conclusion is ok but feels somewhat flat when we suffering readers deserve something spectacular for having kept up with all the time hopping. And then there is a final scene to do with storytelling that makes a stab at being “meta” and “wink-wink, readers, I know you’re there” which made me cringe.
Overall: The Night Circus is worth reading for the experience of the circus, brought to life so effectively by Morgenstern’s jaw-dropping descriptive talents. Just don’t expect a relaxing read or an explosive conclusion.
P.S. My review is solely about the story, but I would like to mention what a beautiful object the hardback edition of this book is. The illustrators and designers should be proud.
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 Reves,” 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.
Claire Huston / Art and Soul