Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern

Genre: Adult/YA Fantasy
Publisher: Doubleday

Length: 387 pages
Original Publishing Date: September 13th, 2011
Series: Standalone
Where I got it: E-library

Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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 RĂªves, 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 both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

Main characters: 3/5

There was quite a cast of main characters and for a while I found it difficult to know who to focus on. Marco and Celia were obviously two of the most important. It was hard for me to feel a deep connection to either until very late in the book because the first half was written in a tale-like style that focused on the past as though it were legend, rather than showing direct action taking place. When Morgenstern focused more on the dialogue and action between them, I felt far more connected to them. On the other side, I thought Poppet and Widget were mysterious and fascinating, but they lacked some depth. Ironically, I felt that Bailey had the complexity I desired but was pretty boring. Overall, I wish that Morgenstern had more fully developed these characters earlier in the novel, because their late characterization seemed too little too late.

Secondary characters: 2.5/5

Just as with the primary characters, the secondary characters grew more human and complex as the novel went on. Lainie Burgess sort of came out of no where and I found myself appreciating her as a well-rounded character. Mr. Barris was sometimes a little flat for my taste and he didn't grow much throughout the novel but served an important purpose. I continuously hated Alexander and "Prospero the Great" and I think that they could have benefited from some positive characterization as I didn't really understand their motivations. Just as with the main characters, I feel that the secondary characters could have benefited from some additional characterization and history.

Writing style: 4.5/5

The Night Circus has such a mysterious, engaging and sometimes frustrating writing style. The point of view/time period shifts and you suddenly find yourself ten years forward and backward from the scene you were just reading. Even the point of view changes from third person to second person. Despite all of this however, I was able to stay engaged and focused on the story, rather than turned off by the abrupt switches. Morgenstern understands how to employ these shifting styles and time periods without alienating the reader and leaving them lost and confused. Beyond Morgenstern's skillful manipulation of a variety of times and points of view, she is also adept at a beautifully detailed style without being overwhelming or dry. In particular, the anniversary party descriptions were absolutely gorgeous. The novel flew by, despite its length.

Plot: 4/5 
Just as the complexity of the writing style is impeccably done, so is the plot which dictates it. Morgenstern weaves together these various timelines and points of view masterfully. The plot is intriguing and unique, and left me yearning to know the mysteries of the Circus and the Challenge. The world building and the fantasy elements were exceptional, especially the Circus. I was enthralled with the depth of world building that Morgenstern put into the Circus and its different elements. My one disappointment is that the challenge seemed to become slightly contrived as the novel moved on and I didn't feel like it truly moved the plot along. It felt a little bit like a gimmick, even though it was supposed to be the central conflict.

Ending: 3/5

I'm a little torn. I saw the resolution to the conflict coming long before it occurred (which is unusual as I'm a particularly oblivious reader). I felt jipped at the conclusion with Alexander and the challenge, although I assume I am intended to feel that way. However, it was still not a pleasant note to end such a long and fantastical story on. I did like the final chapter in second person because it left things ambiguous, as I assume that Morgenstern attempted in the second to last chapter, and yet it had an air of mystery and hopefulness about it that the Widget and Alexander chapter lacked. 

Best scene: I mentioned earlier that I adored the writing of the anniversary party scene so I'll list that again here.

Reminded Me Of: Water for Elephants meets Conjured

Positives: Writing style, enchanting plot, mysterious characters, dream-like ending

Negatives: Characterization was too little, too late, some plot elements seemed contrived, the ending was so-so

Cover: This cover is gorgeous, especially the font and the color scheme that fits perfectly with the circus. My only complaint would be that it's not particularly exciting or enthralling, and if I hadn't heard rave reviews of the book, it may not have enticed me to pick it up. 

Verdict: An enchanting and magical read; worthwhile

Rating: 6.8/10 (4 stars)

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

Maddy's Take: This is a new section that I am trying out wherein I ask my sorority little Maddy to give me her feedback on the book and we compare our answers. Unfortunately, Maddy didn't finish this book because school was starting and she didn't have time but she made it about 3/4 of the way through and she said "I loved how complex and imaginative it was! It felt like a whole other world and you were totally able to immerse yourself in the magic". She also noted that she was going to finish it now because I reminded her that she owned the book. 

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